Summer in the Wildscape

by Catherine Johnson

Now is a good time to visit the Wildscape garden at Bird and Bee Farm. Many native plants and grasses are in bloom. The mason bee houses are filled, and bobwhite quail were spotted on the grounds for the first time (see below). 

Events will be held later in the year, including Nature Days in October.  Saturday mornings
are a nice time to visit and share Master Naturalist info with others or do much needed watering.                                          

Butterflies enjoy the zinnias

Hours will be for Community Outreach- indirect, or  Nature Improvement in Public Areas.

El Camino Real Chapter Tree Girdling Saga Continues…

by Carolyn Henderson

Three months ago, nine members of our TMN chapter met Cliff Tyllick at Wilson Ledbetter Park to learn how to girdle an invasive species of tree. The Glossy Privet was introduced to Texas landscapers from China. It is evergreen, produces flowers liked by pollinators and grows prolifically, and it’s an invasive species.

Tree #1

It’s invasive because it knocks out native trees because of its rapid growth, and it “steals” pollinators from native Texas wildflowers. Pollinators find the big tree’s flowers easy to access. It often takes a little more work to find the native Texas flowers. Without pollinators, the natives die out.

Tree #2

Tree girdling is a method of killing trees without herbicides or the noise of chainsaws. It is used a lot in the nature preserves in the Austin area. Since there are quite a few Glossy Privets in Wilson-Ledbetter, we brave nine thought we’d give it a go. In summation – it’s difficult to girdle a tree. It’s not overly complicated. It requires a lot of physical action.  

Tree #3

Sunday, I went to the park to check on the progress of our girdling. I am unsure whether it’s succeeding or not. We worked on three clusters of trees in three groups. Two of them had 3 or 4 “trunks” and were completed. The third group had eight or nine trunks, and a few of those were left untouched.

Dead branches

The uncompleted one has dead branches at the top of the trees, but I’m not sure if that’s from girdling or leftover damage from the freeze of 2021. The other two have a couple of dead branches, but new “trunks” are growing up from the ground. There are a few growing below the girdling area, but I don’t see any new growth above the girdling.

Tree finding a way around girdling

Cliff said it would probably take a year to completely knock them out. To hasten it along, they need a little work which isn’t uncommon, I’m told. For those who want to give our project a little care, I’m going to schedule another morning to get together and help them along.

Trying hard to live

Ultimately, we’ll get them down one way or another. Then we plan to plant Eastern Redbuds to replace them.

More dead branches

It Pays to Look Down or: I Found a Swan Flower

By Sue Ann Kendall

You never know when you’ll make an interesting nature observation. Today I was walking in my neighbor’s field, getting ready to watch her horse do some dressage. I had noticed some day flowers and sorrel, so my head was down, checking for more flowers. The field was mowed, but not too low.

I saw something new to my eyes, so I took a closer look. It was a most unusual plant and flower, one I’d never seen before. It looked sort of like a jack-in-the-pulpit.

Hmm.

I immediately uploaded my photo to iNaturalist, though I figured it was probably some common plant I’d just missed. But, no! I’d found a swan flower, Aristolochia erecta.

This plant only grows here in Texas. Donna Lewis will be happy to know it’s important for her pipevine swallowtails. Here’s info from the Wildflower Center:

How cool!

I had no idea these guys existed, but now I know what the host for all the pipevine swallowtails I see around here must be! Here’s another cool fact about this observation—it looks like this is one of the northernmost observations of the swan flower. Wow!

That’s us, up at the top.

I’m thrilled to make this pretty plant’s acquaintance and to learn about it. I found another specimen that wasn’t in bloom, and I’ll be on the lookout for more.

Swan flower, looking for butterflies.