Blog of the El Camino Real Chapter, Texas Master Naturalists, Milam County, Texas
Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall
The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!
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.
Hours will be for Community Outreach- indirect, or Nature Improvement in Public Areas.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Ultimately, we’ll get them down one way or another. Then we plan to plant Eastern Redbuds to replace them.
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.
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, Aristolochiaerecta.
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:
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!
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.
I wanted to show you what milkweed is growing on our property here in Central Texas. The biggest issue is that some of these plants came up very late in the year and by now, all the monarchs have already left the area. That is not too good.
Hopefully, this does not start becoming normal. The plants are reacting to the climate, but the monarchs are reacting to their instincts. The plants and the butterflies need to be ready at the same time.
The first photo is Asclepias asperula or Spider Milkweed. This plant was awarded by a grant to our chapter. Our member Cathy Johnson applied for the grant. It was a lot of paperwork.
I started with twenty-four small plants. I put them in several areas around our pastures.
This is the only one that has returned this year. The rest did not come up.
Photo #2 is the seed pod on the plant, which is about to let loose its seeds.
Photo #3 shows the same plant in our back pasture.
Photo#4 This is another area where we had the plants return for two years, but not this year. There were gophers under the plant. I guess they were hungry.
Photo#5 This shows Zizotes Milkweed on our gravel drive where they just came up on their own. Volunteers for sure. There are three plants near our backdoor.
#6 This is another Zizotes in the pasture that just showed up.
#7 Another Zizotes in a different part of the pasture.
#8 Tropical Milkweed in my garden. This needed to be bigger before now. Tropical milkweed is from Mexico.
You’re too late, milkweed plants. The last monarch I saw here on our property was on 5-17-2022. You can see where the monarchs are by viewing Journey North, monarchs’ migration. It is a great site.
We will have to pay attention and see what happens to both the milkweed and the monarchs over the next few years.
Still, we need to keep on planting the native milkweed to try to help out.
Just before it rained the other day, I saw this very interesting spider web under a tree, wound up in a Turk’s Cap plant.
I was not about to get too close as it looked like something that if I were a small insect, I would enter and never come out again. I think they make horror movies about these kinds of things.
But I was also struck by how intricate and, yes, beautiful it was. How can a tiny insect have the mind to construct something like this? Another one of nature’s secrets.
I sent the photo to Master Naturalist Eric Neubauer, who we are fortunate to have as a member of our Chapter to identify what spider made this. He said it was either in the family of Agelenopsis or Agelenidae Funnel Spider.
They look similar to a Wolf Spider. But I am not going to get that close to ask it.
The lesson is as usual, look around at nature and you will see wonderful things.