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Pre-Equinox Spring Fever

Prairie Notes:
March 4, 2010

1) Signs of Spring 2) You owe your life to grass 3) Cedar Fever up close and personal 4) The last Trout Lily walk of 2010 5) Message in a seed pod 1) The Spring Equinox may be more than two weeks away (March 20) but Spring Fever is breaking out all over. In north Texas we've had an unusually winter-like Winter, but with two sunny days in a row, I've been scouting Tandy Hills Natural Area searching for early signs of Spring. I'm pleased to report that Spring will, indeed, come again in 2010. Now that Trout Lilies have fully emerged things will start happening fast, especially with a little sunshine. Puccoon, Creek Plum, Big Root Cymopterus (Cymopterus machroizus), Purple Paintbrush, Blue Star and Prairie Celestial, to name a few, should bloom by mid-March. After that, Mother Nature goes crazy. I've attached some photos taken at THNA the week of March 1, 2010. Under each pic is another view from March 2009 that show the same plants in full bloom. That should whet your appetite for a visit to THNA ASAP. creek-plum-buds-1.jpg Creek Plum buds: 3/02/2010 (1/8" diameter) creek-plum-buds-2.jpg Creek Plum buds: 3/02/2010 creek-plum-buds-full-bloom.jpg Creek Plum in full bloom: 3/2009 purple-paintbrush-2.jpg Purple Paintbrush: 3/02/2010 (2" tall) purple-paintbrush-full-bloom.jpg Purple Paintbrush (in full bloom): 3/2009 cymopterus-1.jpg Big Root Cymopterus: 3/02/2010 (immature bloom) cymopterus-2.jpg Big Root Cymopterus: 3/2009 (mature bloom) 2) Check out this very interesting report by Olivia Judson in the 3/03/2010 edition of the New York Times on the evolution of grasses. It will enhance your appreciation of the Tandy Hills grassland. Among other things, Ms. Judson points out that without grasslands humans may have never evolved. Excellent introduction to a complex subject. Evolution by the Grassroots: prairie-grass-1.jpg prairie-grass-2.jpg Prairie grass was made to nap in. THNA: 3/02/2010 3) Cedar Fever is plague on humanity. If you are allergic to the pollen of Ashe Juniper (Juniperus ashei), commonly called, Mountain Cedar, you know what I mean. Severe allergic reactions are common this time of year when the male trees release pollen from tiny cones. It can take all the fun out of being out of doors for many people. There is even an organization called People Against Cedars whose goal is, "to provide you with useful information about the Ashe Juniper and its detriment to your health." They trees also shade out plant diversity and for that reason they are being selectively removed from portions of THNA. Despite all the negatives, the trees do help control erosion and provide wildlife food and habitat. But that's not enough to satisfy those who have Cedar Fever. ash-juniper-cones.jpg Bane of my existence: Ashe Juniper cones in full bloom @ THNA: 3/02/2010 4) The last Trout Lily Walk of 2010 at THNA, led by Master Naturalist, Jim Varnum will take place this Saturday at 10 am. Details: Date: Saturday, March 6, 2010 Time: 10 am - 1 pm Place: Tandy Hills Natural Area Bring: Water, camera, notebook Contact: Don Young at trout-lily-3.jpg Trout Lily @ THNA: 3/02/2010 While searching for signs of Spring today at THNA, I ran across several Milkweed pods that have recently popped opened. The feathery seeds blow breezily across the Tandy Hills, not unlike the butterflies they help feed. I'll use this image as a reminder to spread the news far and wide about the 5th annual Prairie Fest on April 24, 2010. milkweed-1.jpg Message of the Milkweed. THNA: 3/02/2010 Come to the meadow, April 24, 2010.