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Prairie Notes are monthly photo/journal observations from Tandy Hills Natural Area by Founder/Director, Don Young. They include field reports, flora and fauna sightings, and more, mixed with a scoop of dry humor and a bit of philosophy. They are available free to all who get on the FOTHNA email list.

September Splendor

Prairie Notes: #69
September 1, 2012

1) September Splendor
2) Field Report
3) Texas Invasive Workshop
4) Vote the Environment, Please
5) Grass Man in the News
6) Wildflower of the Moment
7) Prairie Plant Puzzler
8) Prairie Proverb

1) September Splendor

Fall's arrival in Texas is relative. We tend to think of September as Fall-ish, but weather-wise it's often just like August: an inferno. But it helps a little that the sun is setting about 45 minutes earlier than it did in late June. Autumn Equinox 2012 will arrive on September 22. There's a faint chill in the air.

Monarch and Swallowtail Butterflies are floating on the lower breeze, Hawks soaring above. Cottontail Rabbits are cautiously feeding beside the trails. Newly hatched Texas Spiny Lizards are slithering in the grass. Fall blooming grasses such as Sideoats Grama, the State Grass of Texas, are getting taller by the day. Autumn wildflowers, drunk on unexpected August rain, are glowing with color. The hills are still hilly. The sunsets are inspirational and always free.

No, it's not the Garden of Eden, but a paradise of a different kind known as, Tandy Hills Natural Area. Come see what you've been missing.

DY

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A blue moon-in-the-making rises over a golden cloud at Tandy Hills Natural Area.

2) Field Report

- August was an unusually wet month at Tandy Hills bringing at least 3.2" of both Male and Female rain nicely spaced between 8/12 and 8/27. I say "at least" because local conditions on 8/18 varied from the airport measurements. It was a deluge over here! Creeks were running and holes filled up. Officially, rainfall was 1.5" above normal in August.

- Wow, man! You can see miles and miles and miles of Heliotrope at Tandy Hills right now. Their vast carpet extends across the entire park. The number of tiny white blooms must outnumber the stars in the sky. Pictures can't do justice. Check it out, in situ!

- Fall Grasses are still lagging in growth at most THNA locations but I expect they will pick up steam in September. Little Bluestem, Big Bluestem, Sideoats Grama and Indian Grass are the Fall stars that make the prairie a prairie.

- On the other end of the color spectrum from the September Wildflower of the Moment (see below) is Eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii). Eryngo is always a pleasure to see this purple prairie plant that reminds us that Fall is coming soon. Nearly every part of the plant is some shade of purple including the stems.

- Other typical, late Summer perennials such as False Gaura, Maximillian Sunflower and Snow on the Prairie have taken their places on the prairie stage and are eagerly awaiting your inspection. Please don't disappoint them.

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Tandy Creek was full above Tandy Falls after a late August deluge.

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Miles and miles of Heliotrope carpet the Tandy Hills in late August.

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It takes a lot of 1/4" diameter Heliotrope flowers to cover Tandy Hills.

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Eryngo harkens the coming Fall at Tandy Hills.

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Maximillian Sunflower still forming...

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...and in full bloom.

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Snow on the Prairie surrounded by green sprigs of Broomweed with Eryngo in the distance.

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Snow on the Prairie is wonderfully complex plant on the Fall prairie.

3) Texas Invasive Workshop

Like most urban parks Tandy Hills is plagued with a variety of invasive species, especially Chinese Privet. On September 29, the Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge is offering a Texas Invasive Workshop to help you learn how to identify such plants and how to stop their spread in our community. Get the details on the FWNC&R website, in the September calendar of the Phenology Newsletter:

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http://www.fwnc.org/docs/calendar/calendar.pdf

4) Vote the Environment, Please

With an important, some say, historic election less than 60 days away, now is the time to begin checking out the environmental voting records of the candidates. The current state of politics is uglier than ever but your vote is vital to saving and protecting what's left of the natural world.

The League of Conservation Voters website is an excellent place to start. Educate yourself and vote for "the world you want to live in."

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http://www.lcv.org/scorecard/

You will also want to check out the Vote the Environment initiative launched by outdoor apparel company, Patagonia, a world leader in corporate responsibility and sustainability. Check it out and get registered to vote, here:

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http://www.patagonia.com/us/vote-the-environment

5) Grass Man in the News

John Snowden knows his stuff. Native grass stuff, that is. He is a valuable resource to native plant enthusiasts and his reputation is... growing. He is also a supporter of Tandy Hills and has generously loaned us potted grasses to decorate HQ booths at Prairie Fest for several years. John and his Bluestem Nursery are featured in a Dallas News article from August 22. Check it out here:

http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/home-and-gardening/headlines/201208...

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-photo by Michael Parkey, Dallas News

6) Wildflower of the Moment

Two-leaf Senna (Senna roemeriana) is one of the brightest stars of the late Summer prairie and a perennial Wildflower of the Moment. Their intensely colored sulphur yellow flowers scattered randomly among the grasses are easy to spot from a good distance. On closer inspection, the "two-leaf" part of the name becomes obvious. It is also a host plant for Cloudless Sulphur Butterflies whose larvae are living works of art as you can see in Prairie Notes #59 from November 2011:

http://www.tandyhills.org/notes/metamorphosis

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Who doesn't love the cheerful, Two-Leaf Senna?

7) Prairie Plant Puzzler

...is on vacation.

➤ The answer to the August Puzzler: Indian Blanket (Gallardia pulchella). Evaline Woodrey was our lucky winner!

8) Prairie Proverb

"Well, the sun's not so hot in the sky today
And you know I can see summertime slipping on away"

- James Taylor, lyrics from his song, September Grass, 2002

All photographs by Don Young except where otherwise noted.

Don Young

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After an August deluge a rainbow lights up the Tandy prairie.