Lick Creek Park

Nerds in the Woods 2019, Part I: Poking at Plants

Longtime readers may recall that Sigyn and I have on more than one occasion accompanied the human female to the annual Nerds in the Woods gathering.  This is a one- or two-day event, during which nerdy naturalists seek to catalog all of the various bloomy, flappy, squiggly, crawly and otherwise organic entities in the local Lick Creek Park.

In the Olden Days, the human female used to head up the plant team.  She spared no efforts, traipsing to remote parts of the part to compile her long lists of herbiage, things with (no doubt made-up) names like “daisy fleabane,” pinweed,” “forked blue curls,” and “rosettegrass.”  Several years ago, I tipped the organizers of the event off to just how hard she worked her fellow volunteers and how tedious she is with her constant bragging about how there are “more plants in the park than anything else, blah, blah, blah…”  So they stopped inviting her.  She volunteered to help out.  They unvolunteered her.  Cue moping, which was more tedious than the endless stream of botanical trivialities.

This year, much to my astonishment and dismay, the local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas asked her to sit in at their table.  Oh, foolish mortals.  You will now never be free of this tiresome limpet!  Remind me to point and laugh later, when you are ready to stuff socks in her mouth to shut her up,  and remind you that you brought it on yourselves. 

Come Sigyn, let us accompany her.  I know that you are capable of strolling through the woods without nattering on, so for your sake, I will subject myself to a car ride with her.  We can always sneak away from her when we get there.

We are now here.  The NPSOT table is plunked down in the middle of a big patch of this:

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Whatever “this” is…  Do you recognize it, my love?

By Idunn’s little apples!  Sigyn says it is heartwing sorrel, a useful plant to know because the leaves are edible.  I would never have guessed.  My sweetie always knows the best things!  She even says she knows of a good recipe for potato-sorrel soup, something involving heavy cream, chicken stock, potatoes, and this little bit of the wild herbiness.  (You know, once chopped up, one bit of greenery looks much like the next.  I wonder if I could make the human female a pottage of lawn clippings and get her to eat it, telling her it was this?  I bet she’d be half a bowl in before she suspected anything amiss…)

Now the human female is wandering away from the table, tallying up the various species in evidence today.  She and Sigyn have zeroed in on this bright pink posy.

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The human female says it’s a prairie gentian.  It’s not very big, but Sigyn is even less big, so she needs a boost to see the yellow markings on the petals.  There are at least seven species in that photo–it’s a good year for wildflowers!

Come my love, let us leave the human female to her clipboard and census-taking.  While she’s peering at grasses and sedges, let us make our escape.  See–over there?  The electric blue of your favorite, spiderwort.

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The camera scarcely does them justice!

And it would not be spring without the annual Sigyn-admiring-the-scarlet-pimpernel picture.

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Sigyn is making happy squeaky noises at the minuscule yellow Sisyrinchium with the maroon eye-ring too.  She likes the flowers that are “Sigyn-sized.”  Be careful, though, dearest, as some dog-walkers have not heeded the injunction about cleaning up after their pets.  There are fire ants about, as well.

Ah.  No fire ants and no doggie “presents” up here in this juniper tree.  No, nothing but shade and sunshine and a nice breeze and some curious blue-gray berries.

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Yes, dearest, I know they’re not really berries.  They’re “fleshy female cones, each with one to four seeds and a covering of grayish wax. They have traditionally been used to season meat, especially game, and some kinds provide the flavoring for gin.”

What?  I’m not allowed to know botanical facts?  You wound me!  I am a man of many talents and much knowledge!

Also, the human female leaves her books lying about and sometimes I am really bored.

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The Pitter-Patter of a Thousand Tiny Feet

If my aching head is anything to go by, the humans have been having a fun visit with the female’s mother and sister, who were successfully fetched from the Big City to the West.  They’ve done nothing but laugh screech and cackle, talking a thousand miles to the minute, sunup to the wee hours and then repeat.

And eating!  Sleipnir’s fetlocks–the eating!  The human female made bacon rolls and orange sweet rolls; her mother brought a big batch of braised beef and carrots, frozen, along with two long loaves of bread; and they’ve all waddled over to the trough where we had the french toast biscuits.

Today, however, we are trying to accomplish a little peace and quiet and some exercise to offset all the loafing and munching  (and munching on loaves.)  We’ve come out to the local woodland in Lick Creek Park in the hopes of dodging the showers and seeing some blossoms.  It’s been such a cold and rainy spring that there isn’t much in flower.  The birds are singing, though, so that’s something.

Wait!  Sigyn–did you see something move?  Look–right there!  We appear to have stumbled upon some very industrious hymenopterans!

I’ll just magic a video link up there so other people can see, too.

I wonder what they’re going to do with all of that foliaceous confetti?  And I wonder if they could be induced to follow us home and commit snippage on the human female’s landscaping?

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Back to the Park! (Sigyn Speaks)

The human female and I were talking the other day, about how it’s been so long since we went out to the park in the woods.  So today we’re going!

We have a little time before the tour group she’s leading shows up.  Come on, Loki, let’s look at the flowers around the Nature Center.  I can see from the parking lot that there are a lot of colorful things blooming!

This is the butterfly garden.

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I really like this fluffy blue stuff.

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I don’t think Loki is as impressed with it as I am.

Wow!  All the pink behind me is a native grass, Pink Muhly.  Isn’t it wonderful?

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The human female planted some in our front flower bed.  Sadly, Loki got to it, and it isn’t nearly this pretty.

Most people think Wooly Croton is a weed,

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but it’s fuzzy, and actually a nice place to sit.

This plant is its relative–an they’re both relatives of Poinsettias!

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If you mentally color some of these leaves bright red, you can see the resemblance.

Now these Pentas are good and red!  They’re not native, so I sort of wish the city hadn’t planted them, but the butterflies do like them.

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And, oh!  I wish you could smell this one!  It’s Mexican marigold and it smells like sweet licorice!

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Even if we don’t find many wildflowers in the woods today, just seeing all of this near the Center has been a real treat!

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A Long-Overdue Walk in the Woods, Part II: A Few Surprises

The tree-identifying has been snoring boringly along:  yaupon holly, winged elm,  yaupon,  yaupon, post oak… one mostly-naked tree after another.

But the Park has a few surprises up its planty sleeves.

The students are losing their collective tiny mind.  The human female has told them that there are PALM trees in the Park and they think she’s crazy.

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But here’s proof.  The human female is crazy, of course, but this is undeniably a palmetto.  Sigyn and I last saw these in East Texas.

Ah.  Here is a nice “pop” of color.  (That’s something the human female says.  I have no idea what she means, but this coralberry is certainly colorful.

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It’s only a foot tall, though, so dangling here just doesn’t have the thrill one can get with a taller species.

At last!  Some actual non-arboreal blossoms!  Sigyn likes this camphorweed, not only because it’s flowery, but because it is her favorite cheery yellow.

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It’s short too, but by the end of the season, it could be four feet tall.

(later)  We’ve been traipsing up and down all morning, and it is time for a break.

Clever Sigyn!   She has found us this lovely green and reddish resting place.

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The human female says it’s cancerweed.  What an ugly name for such a delightful plant.  It’s not moss, but it’ll do in a pinch.

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A Long-Overdue Walk in the Woods, Part I: Adventures in Tree ID

Sleipnir’s fetlocks!  The human female has ACTUALLY shoved her trotters into hiking boots and dragged her saggy fundament out into the woods.  She’s out at Lick Creek Park, helping some Honors Biology students who are learning how to run transects, census trees, and measure weird things like Diameter at Breast Height. (I don’t want to know.)

Because of all the cold weather and gray skies this winter, the local flora is LATE.  Things should be leaping into flower right about now, but nary a blossom is in sight.  The human female is having to dust off her knowledge of Trees in Winter Condition.  I’m letting all the talk of bud scales, leaf scars, and lentils go in one ear and out the other, but Sigyn is hanging on every syllable.

Oh, well, I guess I am hanging too.

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Now that I look, this is very interesting.  We have here crustose, fruticose, AND foliose lichens, all on one branch.  Not precisely plants, but they are at least green.

Now we are getting to the trees.  This is winged elm.  No leaves, but the twigs are good and weird.

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They are all flat, and.. bacony.

Hold!  What’s this?!  Finally, something in bloom!  And it’s not some tiny, timid, little spring wildflower, it’s a big tree!   Mexican plum doesn’t look like much when its wearing its leaves later on, but it’s surely showy now.

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Time for some serious dangling. Sigyn’s out of practice–we both are–but look at that form!

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She’s perfection.

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A Walk a Long Time Coming, Part II: The Fallout

No good walk goes unpunished.  No, wait.  That’s not right, is it?  Perhaps it is sort-of-right, because ever since Sigyn returned home from our walk in the woods the other day she doesn’t want to stop “doing nature.”  What is it you want today, my love?

Ah.

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What Sigyn wants is to roll around in crunchy fallen leaves on the back patio.  Yes, it’s fun, but it can also be a little itchy.

And what’s that you have there?  I do not recognize those.

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Persimmon seeds?  From the local, deliciously edible wild persimmon?  Excellent!  It would be nice to plant them and see if we can get a female tree to grow.  Where did you come by them?

You picked them up on our walk at the park?  I did not see them on the ground.   All I saw was the big pile of fur-filled coyote scat (those creatures will eat anything) and…

Oh, sweetie, tell me you didn’t…

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A Walk a Long Time Coming, Part I: Actual Real Live Nature

The human female’s stupid bum foot (not to mention her super-lazy bum) have conspired to keep her largely out of the woods and byways in the last year.  Today, however, she has traded her air-cast for a lace-up brace and jammed her pitiful trotters into her hiking boots.  The local chapter of Texas Master Nature Nerds has asked her to lead a field trip in her beloved Lick Creek Park, and she daren’t miss that.

We’ve had the first real cold front of the season and it’s a crisp, sunny morning.  Here and there, there are a few trees that have made a half-hearted attempt at fall color.

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A few have even been successful.

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Unfortunately, we are sitting in a cedar elm, and the leaves are scratchy as heck.

Sigyn, true to form, has found a holly to sit in.  Whatever she sits in, she seems to like hollies best.  The leaves are definitely smoother.

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Fruit’s not quite ripe yet, but that’s all right.  We’re not planning on eating it.

The fruit on this one is edible, but it’s a summer thing, so there isn’t any now.

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The human says it’s called gum bumelia or woolly-bucket.  Sigyn likes it because the leaves are fuzzy underneath.  Careful, dearest!  Fuzzy is not always friendly, and this one sometimes has thorns that can extremely poke-y.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… The human female has been walking and talking for THREE HOURS NOW.  Isn’t there any way to make her shut up?  Great Frigga’s corset!  Now she’s pointing and squealing.  What on earth could be worth such a fuss?

Ah.  That explains it.  Sigyn, get someone to boost you up—we’ll want to get a photo of you with this one.

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Nodding ladies’ tresses, a dainty little terrestrial orchid that comes up in the woods in the fall.  It has a close cousin that is even rarer, and it’s out here too, but we haven’t found any today.

Still, it’s been good to get out of the house, hasn’t it?  The human female is sure to be stiff and balky tomorrow, but we could leave her home and come out again by ourselves.

Yes? It’s a date!

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