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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.

Behold the Harbingers of Spring

Prairie Notes #87
March 1, 2014

1) Behold the Harbingers of Spring
2) Field Notebook
3) Prairie Fest Update
4) Dark Skies of Texas
5) Monarchs of Texas
6) Native Plants & Prairies Day
7) Prairie Proverb

1) Behold the Harbingers of Spring

We're on the cusp. Just when I was about to abandon hope, a sprig of common Henbit brightened my well worn path to Tandy Hills with a vibrant flash of purple bloom. The slo-mo transition from Winter to Spring prairie is finally happening.

By the first week of February, the first wave of Trout Lilies (Erythronium albidum) , aka: Dogtooth Violet, the crème de la crème of Spring's harbingers, were emerging from the damp mulch under leafless trees in undisturbed corners of Tandy Hills. This years crop of TL's is AMAZING simply because they bloomed. By the thousands, and in all stages of development, coloring the ground white, like snow.

Trout Lilies take seven years to mature. That partly explains why we haven't had many blooms in the past six years at Tandy Hills. Apparently, the largest colonies of TL's at Tandy Hills last bloomed six years ago.

Growing from corms (bulbs) roughly the size/shape of a dog's tooth, they spend the first six years producing a single maroon-mottled leaf reminiscent of brook trout markings. By the seventh year, two leaves, a stem and the lilliputian lily flower appear followed by bees that pollinate the flowers and the amazing process begins anew.

> Weather permitting ....Master Naturalists and TL experts, Jim Varnum and Sam Kieschnick , will lead a Trout Lily Walk at Tandy Hills on Sunday, March 2, at 1- 3 PM. <


Tiny Trout Lily buds and leaves emerge in early February at Tandy Hills.

Ready to flower after 7 long years.

Voila! Behold the harbinger of Spring!

Iconic flowers of our beloved Tandy Hills

Colonies like this one with hundreds of blooms can be as much as 200 - 300 years old, when undisturbed, as this one is.

2) Field Notebook

While the Trout Lily grabs most of the attention, other, more obscure harbingers of Spring have burst forth from the Tandy prairie and it's environs. Check 'em out below.

Also of note --- the month of February was one of weather extremes at Tandy Hills. We had everything from snow, ice and sub-freezing weather to fog to intense winds to sunny Spring-like weather. As of this writing on February 28, the thermometer is flirting with 90 degrees but the forecast for March 2nd calls for a low of 19 degrees. Have mercy!

Big Root Cymopterus with filigreed leavesgrows low to the ground but is very sturdy.

Small is beautiful so watch your step.

Wedge-leaf Draba is one of the smallest wildflowers appearing at first as a mold on the ground until one looks closer.

Ground Plum Milk Vetch grows in dry, rocky habitat to produce its luxuriant blooms.

Tiny, 1/2" tall sprouts of Rabbits Tobacco, lined up in neat rows by the thousands at Tandy Hills.

Tandy Hills tumbleweeds. Sturdy Compassplants, from last Spring, roll around the prairie as a new Spring approaches.

While looking for Trout Lilies I stumbled upon this beautiful but tragic scene of a bird kill.

You know Spring is coming when Cedar Waxwings depart for new lands after spending the last days of Winter at Tandy Hills.

Outdoor Classroom #1 at Tandy Hills appears ghostly, waiting for Spring and a new crop of Kids on the Prairie.

February fog casts a magic spell on the Tandy prairie

3) Prairie Fest Update

56 days and counting until the 9th annual Prairie Fest sets up shop at Tandy Hills. Prairie Fest Directors, Carrie Vano and Don & Debora Young have a really big show planned. See below. But first: The deadline for Prairie Fest Sponsors and Exhibitors to get listed on our beautiful new poster is March 20. Please go here to become a Prairie Fest Sponsor:

> > > From Prairie Fest Co-Director, Carrie Vano.... "If you like that Prairie Fest was the forerunner of environmental stewardship, inspired music and arts, and innovative outdoor education, then you won't want to miss this year. The Prairie will come together with the People for a 9th year, on April 26th. Even by Prairie Fest standards, we have broken barriers that will redefine community expectations."

>>> Wildflower Tours

Take a hike around the Best Place to See Wildflowers in North Texas led by a trained Master Naturalist. This is what sets Prairie Fest apart from other festivals. We got the best show in town! Also----Watch Plein Air painters painting the prairie and selling their work on the spot.

>>> Stage Entertainment-

Solar-powered music is a Prairie Fest trademark. See and hear clear and clean performances by, among others:

Gunga Galunga
The Spanish Fly Band
Pablo and the Hemphill 7
and a grand finale featuring, the Groovy Goods Performers, fire spinners, hula hoop dancers, the Mondo Drummers and Brazen Bellies and more. Have Mercy!
Southside Pirate will record the performances for podcast.

>>> Prairie Circle-

50 booths featuring everything from green products and services, vintage clothing, native plants and so much more. A local Boy Scout troop will have a rope bridge set up for the kiddos. You might also encounter impromptu kite-flyers, stilt walkers, belly dancers and hula hoopers in the big circle.

>>> Local Food & Brews-

A variety of local food sellers including:
Sassy Hot Dogs
Dough Boys Pizza
Chadra Mezza & Grill
Auntie Am's Sweet Shop
and beer and wine by The Usual.

>>> Prairie Keepers Hikes-

Prairie Keepers has designed some innovative hikes for all ages. Read more at the Prairie Fest webpage:

UPDATE---YMCA Camp Carter has generously donated one week of overnight camp for a child (age 7 - 16) as a prize for the Time Travel Passport Game . Play the game at Prairie Fest and enter to win the drawing for this amazing camp experience valued at $600.

4) Dark Skies of Texas

The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) , recently announced the town of Dripping Springs as first International Dark Sky Community in Texas and one of only six in the world. "When people enter the Dripping Springs area at night, many of them notice something is different - the skies over the city are not spoiled by light pollution ," explained Mayor Todd Purcell.

Dark skies full of stars and constellations are not only beautiful to behold, they help protect the natural circadian rhythms of plants, animals and people. Read how this town of 2,000 residents just outside of the Austin metro area were able to keep it dark, here:

NASA image

5) Monarchs of Texas

The Native Plant Society of Texas is offering small grants to nature centers, schools, educational groups and others to help fund Monarch Way-stations or demo gardens on public sites. It part of an international effort to Bring Back the Monarchs . Deadline is March 15. Learn more about the Texas program HERE:

Poster art by Ron Brancato. Available here:

6) Native Plants & Prairie Day

The North Texas Master Naturalists are hosting the 2nd annual Native Plants and Prairie Day on May 3, 2014, from 10 AM to 4 PM at the Bath House Cultural CEnter on White Rock Lake in Dallas. For more info check out their website:

7) Prairie Proverb

"There are always flowers for those who want to see them."

Henri Matisse, 1869 - 1954

Tiny, Wedge-leaf Draba, growing discreetly and beautifully at Tandy Hills Natural Area.

Prairie Notes© is the official newsletter of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. All content by Don Young except where otherwise noted.

Don Young