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A Blursday Walk in the Woods

A cold front blew through between Tuesday night and Wednesday, bringing bright, breezy fall weather. Today it is eleven kinds of windy. The human female, undeterred by the sheer tonnage of ragweed and sumpweed pollen in the air, has dragged us all out to Lick Creek Park to take advantage of the non-sweltering weather.

With all of this wind, the likelihood of good plant photographs in focus is small, but the humans both have their cameras with them anyhow. Let the blurry photos commence!

The pink muhly grass by the nature center is whipping about in a very graceful manner.

The one the human female has planted in front of the house isn’t as big or as pink, but it is trying.

We are seeing quite a bit of the formerly-a-mystery white bidens in the Great Desolation. We managed to catch some of it in focus.

The asters not so much.

While the human female is bigger than she should be, she is still not large enough to make an effective windbreak to keep the plants still so that the male can photograph them. Hence, images like this weirdly-out-of-season black-eyed susan:

Real prize-winner, that one.

The human female says she hasn’t been down Raccoon Run trail in a few years, so that’s where we’re going. It appears to have been widened, but it’s still rather pretty. There are a fair number of large hickories and a lot of frostweed in flower.

The sun is shining though the sumac leaves.

There are some unusual plants along this trail. I didn’t recognize this one at first,

and I didn’t believe her when the human female said it was a palm tree. Palms? In the forest? But yes, this is the native sabal palmetto, and this is about as big as they get.

The stem or trunk is underground. Up close, I can see that the leaves really are pleated like a paper fan.

Some of the trees down here in the bottomland are just festooned with this gray stuff.

The human female says it is an epiphytic bromeliad that likes to live on trees so it can be up in the sun and humid air, which sounds plausible. She also says it is a relative of pineapple and has little green flowers, which sounds entirely bogus. (I never believe more than half of what she says, anyway.)

Shhh! Sigyn, did you hear that? It sounded like a tiny little shriek. There it is again! It’s coming from that thick vegetation right over there. The human female says it’s a small frog in distress. Given that the human male just saw the back half of a snake disappear into the same clump of foliage, I suspect what we’re hearing is the batrachian version of, “Oh, no! Don’t eat me! Help!”, but I’m just going to tell Sigyn that it’s two local creatures meeting for lunch, which is perfectly true.

Another wind-blurred photo:

They look like little yellow tomatoes and are the fruit of one of the native nightshades. Hmm. Salad for dinner some time this week, I think. The human female had better not lose another of my helmets out here in the woods or she will find some in her serving.

Unfortunately, there is an awful lot of non-native vegetation in this part of the park as well. Chinaberry, ligustrum, Japanese honeysuckle, and Chinese tallow tree are the main ne’er-do-wells. The human female is snapping saplings and hauling down vines and resolving to come out again with a) help, b) a saw, c) clippers, d) some brush killer for painting stumps, and e) some napalm. Okay, that last was my addition to the game plan, but you must admit, it sounds like fun!

What have you discovered over there, my love?

It’s like she has a little baldacchino! (You can look that up later.)

Looks like we are headed back to the vehicle now, having made the complete loop–without, I point out, seeing a single raccoon. I feel cheated and shall be complaining to the management at the first opportunity.

Odin’s Eyepatch! The human female just fell down! One minute she was walking and the next, BOOM! I don’t know if she rolled an ankle or if a rock moved under her foot, but here she is, splat on the trail with her limbs waving like a cockroach in its death throes. The male is helping her up, and I don’t see blood (though I bet that knee is skinned under those jeans), so presumably she is mostly all right. Who knows? It might just be a pitiful bid for attention. Let us continue!

Hold! There is something odd in the path up ahead (and I am not talking about the toddler making a puddle, though that is outside the normal realm of goings-on). Sigyn, do you see?

I do hope he’s not on his way to have lunch with his cousin down on the loop trail. If he is, I fear he shall find his kinsman…unavailable.

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In Which the Human Female Completely Forgets How to Botanist

Sigyn! Guess where we’re going today? Lick Creek Park! We haven’t been there for ages. There was the plague, the blocked trails, the rampant destruction from the construction of the water treatment line that runs through the park, etc., etc.–the human female hasn’t dared go out there for months and months, for fear she’ll have her heart broken again.

But since she’s supposed to lead a field trip out there in a few days, she figures she should go out and relearn the trails and make sure she can speak intelligibly about the plants.

And here we are! Hmm. The plantings around the Nature Center don’t look very good. I don’t think the budget stretches to as much maintenance as they might need. Hold on–where’d Sigyn go? She was right here.

Idunn’s little green apples! I turned my back for one minute and where do I find her? Dangling from a tree! (She’s such an eager little thing.)

Hold on–that is a river birch. By the Nature Center. “Nature” didn’t put that there, I can tell you that much. The staff must be giving it all the water on the planet to keep it happy up here in the uplands. Still, having one so agreeably handy to show the field trip participants will be convenient. Otherwise, the human female would have to drag her field trippers through some pretty thick bottomland to point one out. Good, find, my love!

Now here’s a bit of garden that is looking much more lively. It’s maintained by the local chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, and it is just full of plants that hummingbirds and butterflies like.

In September, this place just fizzes with hummers, but it’s a bit late for them now.

(a bit later)

We’ve been wending our way down to the bottomland. The usual fall plants are out. The female yaupon hollies are all decked out with shiny fruit, and the deciduous holly is coloring up nicely as well.

Sigyn loves them now when the fruits are yellow. She’ll love them even more when they are bright red later on.

The shining sumac is already red.

Sigyn, my love, is the sun in your eyes? Here, try this other branch down here where you can dangle in the shade and still appreciate the fall color.

Sweet Sif on a Cracker! Where the human female usually stops with a group to talk about the native grasses in a little grassy open area, the City has mowed the grasses down and put in an ornate concrete bench and a stone path. In the nature park. It sticks out like two sore thumbs.

Not only that, we have reached what used to be Deer Run Trail, which ran along the old inflow line to the water treatment plant. Last time we were here, they had cleared it out to a width of forty meters and it was completely devastated. Nothing but mud and trenches. I’m sorry to say it doesn’t look much better now. The new line is in and the trenches filled, but it’s still all bare and open, hundreds of trees are missing and, even though the City promised to do remediation, that seems to have consisted of planting a few trees and calling it a day. And most of those trees are live oaks, which do not occur naturally in the park. I think the human female is having a little stroke, or at least a spittle-flecked nutty.

And oh, what now? The human female has stopped dead in her tracks because she has seen A Flower. Here in the wasteland, where it is all cocklebur and croton, she has spotted something with an actual showy bloom. It looks like an escaped zinnia. Something Asteraceous, anyway. Probably some weird waif brought in on construction equipment. The foliage isn’t something she recognizes either. It is definitely something that should not be here. Snap! One weed, broken off at the ground. She’ll take one of the flower heads and this glorious photo:

And no doubt she’ll be able to hit the books and figure it out in no time. Then she can be good and outraged about yet another foreign weed in the park.

In any case, it’s getting HOT out here and the trails are more or less where the human female left them, so it’s time to head home.

(later)

Ehehehehe!!! The human female has now spent hours trying to figure out what that white flower is! It is nothing she’s seen in the Park before. It’s not a zinnia, and it’s nothing cultivated that she recognizes. It’s not even anything she recognizes as being from Texas! Oh, frustrated botanist, let me gloat about just how badly you’ve messed up.

Did you get a good photo? No, you did not. I’ll put the photo here again so no one has to scroll.

Just look at that! It’s the botanical equivalent of a Loch Ness Monster photo. Worse than useless.

Did you look around and see if there were other plants of the same sort so you could get some idea of the variation? No? Pitiful!

You KNOW composites are tricky–you spent the better part of two years editing a manuscript on them! You know you can’t get anywhere without having the tiny fruits to look at. Did you collect any? No, you did not! That is the sort of mistake you used to chew your undergrads out for.

Did you get a GPS point of where you collected this interloper? No? What’s that stupid fancy phone for, then? Do you think you could find the spot again? Oh, wait, that’s right, you broke the only plant you saw off at the ground.

Everything wrong. Everything. You will never figure that plant out now. Retirement has turned your brain into tapioca pudding. I think it’s time to turn in your credentials and maybe even offer to send your M.S. diploma back to the University.

Even Sigyn is disappointed in you. Let that sink in.

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