By Sue Ann Kendall
Saturday was an absolutely glorious day for a field trip and guided walk through Mother Neff State Park. It’s the closest state park to Milam County, so it wasn’t a bad drive at all for the carpoolers and separate drivers. Plus, we got to see lots and lots of wildflowers along the way!
We were very impressed with the new park headquarters that was built after the original one was flooded badly (some of the park is still inaccessible). There are very impressive native plantings all around it.
Once we were all gathered and checked in, the group motored over to the trail head and enjoyed a walk through wooded areas, led by a knowledgeable park intern who’s majoring in leisure or something like that.
The hike took us to a cave, a cool picnic table in the middle of nowhere built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a large cave that was used for years by indigenous residents, and a CCC tower that would give great views if the trees hadn’t grown up to block most of it. There was a lot of going up and down involved, so the hike was better for folks with good legs.
Two of our members were not very good participants in the hike, however. Linda Jo Conn and I were too enthralled by all the interesting plants and insects we saw that we could share on iNaturalist. This park is part of the Texas Master Naturalist GTWT Adopt-a-Loop trail project, so we wanted to add observations to that. Also, well, we are just that way. As Linda Jo states, we proceed at the pace of botany.
We found some very interesting plants and were impressed by the variety we saw. I wish we’d been there when the yellow passionflower was blooming. But I was impressed that I remembered what the leaves looked like and found it. We had a blast!
Everyone was pretty tired after we got back, but since I was driving, I forced my passengers to wait while we parked in the trail head for the walk through the meadow that my husband and I had walked last December.
We didn’t want to make them sit forever, so Linda Jo and I didn’t walk on the actual trail. We got all distracted by a sunny area surrounded by Ashe junipers. It looked like dismal scrub. But NO! It was filled with interesting and rare plants!
I was particularly excited to find a star milk vine. What beautiful, tiny flowers it has. The one Linda Jo was most excited about was a golden-eyed phlox, which is endemic to Texas. The other chapter members said they could hear us whooping when we found yet another interesting plant in the “bare” area.
We ended the expedition with a nice lunch on Lake Belton. We’re very lucky to have such a fun group to do our activities with and the perfect day to do it.
PS: Sorry for the lack of Latin names for plants. I had to hurry to finish this. Then a squirrel blew out our electricity and my Internet router.