I spent a day helping some of my Texas Master Naturalist friends improve the hiking trails at Caddo Park on Lake Lavon. The park had been closed to the public for a long time, but is now open again. I took my “little” camera along to photograph the wildflowers and anything else I might see. Here ‘goes!
First, here’s a map of Lake Lavon:
This was probably the coolest flower I saw that day. Sensitive Briar (Mimosa roemeriana) is so named because the foliage folds up when you touch it. The really crazy thing about these flowers is that they almost glow.
These berries of the Dewberry plant (Rubus trivialis) looked good enough to eat! I certainly could have done so, but I decided to leave them for the birds and other animals. Talk about a great wildlife plant – Dewberry plants provide cover, nectar (while in flower), and–throughout the summer–fruit. Hmmm…I may need to plant some dewberry somewhere around my house…
This is a closeup of a thorn growing on a Honey Locust tree (Gleditsia triancanthos). These trees are native throughout North America, but apparently the general consensus is that you don’t want one growing in your yard. I can see why.
I’m going to have to leave it at that, but if I ever figure out what these are, I’ll let you know.
Well, this isn’t the actual bug, but this spitball-looking mass of bubbles is home to one or more nymphs of an insect in the Spittle bug Family Cercopidae.
This dense stand of Ashe Juniper (Juniperus ahsei) is typical of many natural areas in North Central Texas. Our little group went tromping through the area, clearing a trail. It is hard to hold your own amongst these trees, even with several pairs of loppers. Still, I like them because there is always a bird or other interesting critter hopping around in them.
These soft pink flowers were abundant, and I couldn’t help smiling as I saw little bees busily buzzing from bloom to bloom. (Yep, I just bombarded you with a lot of b-variety alliteration.)
I call this little pond Hidden Pond, because it is tucked away and a little hard to find. As we continue to improve the trails, it will be increasingly easier for visitors to happen upon it. There is a definite wildness to this pond, for the time-being, at least. I like that – it makes me want to sit by quietly and just wait to see what kind of wildlife I can observe living in and around the water. As I was taking this picture and thinking these thoughts, I became acutely aware of at least one of the pond area’s inhabitants : Fire Ants (Solenopsis sp.). Bug spray is no match for these bleepin’ little bleepers!
This is the first time I’ve had a close look at this type of prickly pear, which is probably Opuntia humifusa. While trying to hold the grass back, I managed to poke my finger on one of the spines. (Hey–I wanted to get a clear shot!)
This small wet area was surrounded by churned-up mud. The others in my group said that this was a feral hog wallow. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department has a very informative article about feral hogs in Texas. In short, they are not regulated game animals, but you still must have a hunting license to hunt or trap them. They are NOT thought to carry disease, and are generally thought to offer a higher quality meat than their domesticated counterparts. From what I can gather, most people don’t like them, as they tend to eat what the farmers plant and compete with native wildlife for the rest. They are not particularly vicious and are thought to be highly intelligent. As a wild, non-native species, they are regarded as a nuisance, an object of sport/hunting, and–distantly–as a food source for humans. Unfortunately, with the recent alarm about “swine flu,” even their utilization as a food source has been diminished.
If you’re still reading this, then you can probably tell that this topic troubles me. I tend to look at all wildlife as creatures to observe and appreciate, NOT to harm. (Admittedly, I don’t think so kindly about fire ants.) It is unlikely that you or I will ever see feral hogs by chance, since they are nocturnal. If I did see them, I would probably squeal in delight. I empathize with their instinct to survive, and know that it is not their fault they were brought here and turned loose!
It is my hope that any real-world problems created by too many feral hogs can be addressed by an organized effort to derive something good from the situation. We have US citizens who go hungry every day. Am I crazy, or is there a solution staring us in the face? I’m just sayin’…
Okay, back to the photos – my last one. Another prickly pear, only this one is blooming.