Congratulations to the 2023 Training Class!

by Carolyn Henderson

The El Camino Real chapter training class of 2023 completed its final class for the year Thursday night. There was great joy by all attending. Training Director Kathy Lester and Training Assistant Alan Rudd may have been the most gleeful. TPWD Biologist Bobby Allcorn finished the training with lots of information on Texas native mammals. 

The class of five is off to a good start. They all have all 40 hours of training (some have a few extra) and are already reporting volunteer and AT hours. Patricia Coombs will not only graduate from the class, but she will also be fully certified as a Master Naturalist. 

We will have a celebration for them on April 26 at the All Saints Episcopal Church at 6 p.m. The dinner will be catered by Barbara Dominguez, owner of Hot Corner Catering and The Venue on Main. She will provide vegetarian dishes to complement the main course. You may BYOB. Students and members who organized the class this year will be treated by the chapter. All others, including guests, will pay for their meals. Guests are welcome. We will need a head count at the regular meeting April 13.

Please come celebrate the class who survived several major weather events that seemed to always occur on Thursday nights, and give a pat on the back to Kathy Lester, Alan Rudd, Michelle Lopez, Ann Collins, and Marian Buegler for their service to keep the class on track every week. I might add that several members attended regularly for support and several of them also helped host. 

Pictured in the photo: Front row – Patricia Coombs, Ellen Luckey, Michelle Pierce, Brenda Ferris

     Back row – Alan Rudd, Bobby Allcorn, Neil Wettstein, Kathy Lester

Pink Turk’s Cap Experiment Update

by Carolyn Henderson

Success with growing Pink Turk’s Caps from seed is looking more possible every day. I now have seven growing from seeds that wintered in the refrigerator. Then I was surprised to find that the one whole seed pod I planted in the ground last November had come up. I had flagged the site, so I could remember exactly where I put it. 

So, they will come up from a baby plant planted in the fall, seeds that have been removed from the red pod covering, cleaned, dried, and refrigerated over the winter, and a whole pod placed in a flower bed in the fall. The only version that didn’t produce plants were the cleaned and dried seeds planted in the fall in containers and left outside. 

Now, I’m waiting to get them a little larger, so I can transplant them to the mostly shaded flower bed. 

Immigrants in the Wildscape

by Carolyn Henderson

Immigrants have come to the El Camino Real Wildscape, and no one knows how they arrived. A few bright red Common Poppies and what appears to be some type of Larkspur have produced vivid early
blooms in one bed of the wildscape.

Manager Catherine Johnson assures me that no one planted either of those to her knowledge. Seeds of them could have been in the dirt of other plants bought and planted, or perhaps a bird carried a seed and dropped it off on its way through the area.

The Larkspur is a little puzzling because no one is sure what it really is – not even iNaturalist. When I tried to identify there, it said it was pretty sure it’s a Larkspur, but wasn’t sure which one. It looks most like a Forked Larkspur which is spottily found across the United States, but that one is mostly found in Western Europe. If you know the identification, let me know.

The rooster in the picture showed up because he took his job too seriously at his prior home. I’m told he will be travelling on down the road soon. He is pretty, though.

It was too cold for most bees and butterflies, but a few did crawl around. One red wasp was making a nest on a gardening tool in the decorative mailbox storage. The awning is repaired, and the Malabar Spinach is beginning to grow again.

A few Master Naturalists or those soon to be certified showed up to work on the place. Some pulled up weeds, while another dug up overgrown sages, and planted something else. The sages went home with members to be planted in their gardens. What is in overgrown abundance is Sunflowers. If you want some, they are all over the wildscape.

A week of warm weather should have many things blooming soon.

ECRTMN Wildscape Spreads Its Seeds Way Beyond Boundaries

(to my house)

by Carolyn Henderson

A Turks Cap with pink flowers was planted at the El Camino Real Master Naturalist
Wildscape last year. Due to its prolific growth, which was over six feet tall and wide, and it
being covered in many pink flowers, it was the wonder of the season, including with me.

I was determined to grow some myself! Catherine Johnson, site manager, felt
compelled to give me a “baby” plant that had sprouted up under the big plant just in
case my attempt to grow some from seeds didn’t pan out. I should point out that a few
“baby plants” of another species had not made it at my house.

One of the reasons I really liked this plant was that it likes shade. It can grow large even
if it’s in the shade most of the day. My front yard was covered in shade all day long due
to some very tall and old Live Oaks that run across my front yard. Notice I said “was.” It
is not quite as covered now. The freeze/ice of 2021 and freeze/lots of ice of 2023 has
severely pruned those trees to the point of blue sky now being visible when one looks

I have planted a few other things from the Wildscape that are alleged to be shade
tolerant, and they are to a degree, but they are stunted in growth by too much shade. A
Flame Acanthus reached about 12 inches tall and finally put on two blooms last year.
This pink-flowered Turks Cap was in shade for a good part of the day, and it grew like
crazy. It did get chicken poop fertilizer, so that probably helped.

So, I took about 10 of the small, red apple-looking seed pods late last fall. I did some
research on how to grow them from seeds and proceeded to try all versions. There
were basically three different methods suggested by different people.
First, it was suggested to stick the whole seed pod in the ground. I did two in that
manner. I put one in the ground and one in a small potting container. Neither has come
up yet.

Second, it was suggested to open the seed pods, remove the seeds and clean them of
any of the pod then dry them in the sun. After the drying, it was suggested to pot them
in very small containers and put them in the sun. I did eight in this manner. I started
them inside in a window that doesn’t get much sun. The weather was staying pretty
moderate, so I moved them outside. I watered them periodically, and left them out
during the freeze. Nothing has sprouted yet.

Third, follow the cleaning advice in the second version, then put them in an airtight bag
in the refrigerator for the duration of winter. I used a zip lock bag. Plant them in late
February or early March. Two weeks ago, I purchased a container made for starting
seeds that would fit on my kitchen window – the only window that is accessible and gets
several hours of sun in my house. I took some dirt from the empty flower bed where I
intend to plant them if they grow and planted them. I dropped several seeds into each
section of the container. I had seeds left, too. This window is in my kitchen, so I’m
paying close attention to them.

My first positive sign of growth was the “baby plant” that I put in a large flowerpot last
year. It is back! I should note that it is in a sunnier area.

My eureka moment came on Tuesday this week! One of the refrigerator seeds has
sprouted. I excitedly yelled “Yea!”, which caused my son to come into the room to see
what was wrong with me. He reminded me that I had not invented something new. But I
had grown it from a refrigerated seed.

I’m hoping it really will like all the tree shade in my front yard.

Let’s Track the Rain or Ice or Snow?

Carolyn Henderson is one of the many folks in our Chapter who participate in a program to track the rain on our properties. It’s sponsored by CoCoRaHS, Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. Our data is collected daily to create one amazing database of precipitation!

Ideally, reading the rain gauge (or precipitation collection device) must happen daily, or we sure try to do it every day. Carolyn shared this with us yesterday:

“Here is what the CoCoRaHS precipitation collection device looks like. It looks like about .75 in the inner section with about .5 inch frozen where it enters.”

If you have tales of citizen science during the ice storms in Milam County, feel free to share them with us. We can be reached at ecrmnsecretaryATgmailDOTcom.