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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.

Blue Star Gazing

Prairie Notes #172
April 1, 2021

01) Blue Star Gazing
02) Fundraising Report

03) Field Report - March
04) New Species - March
05) Prairie Posse Report
06) PrairieSky / StarParty News - April
07) White Prairie Rose Update
07) Prairie Proverb - Stewart Udall
 

01) Blue Star Gazing

 

In the grand native wildflower cosmos of Tandy Hills you can find such delights as, Yellow Star, Star Milkvine, Blazing Stars, Earth Stars, Sundrops, Prairie Celstial and a galaxy of others. But lately, I've been star-struck by one of the loveliest of all terrestrial bodies: Fringed Blue Star (Amsonia ciliata). 

 

Blue Star is one of the few, true blue wildflowers found at Tandy Hills although they can vary from the palest of of blues to light purple. They are a member of the Dogbane family of plants that includes the various Milkweed species. The "fringed" refernce is to the hairs found on the new leaves. They grow in small clumps no more than 12" tall at Tandy Hills. The light green, grass-like foliage turns golden yellow in the fall. 

 

But it's the unearthly beautiful, blue flowers that fix your gaze. They are tubular at the base flaring out into star-shaped blooms with white-ringed centers. The word "showy" is an apt description. Pollinators think so, too.

 

There are only a few small colonies scatterd around the Tandy Hills. If I were to pick every single specimen they would probably fill one vase. But quantity is secondary to the brilliant beauty of this early spring wildflower. 

 

 

DY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heavenly Blue Blue Star

 

02) Fundraising Report

 

Our January - March fundraising campaign inspired 45 people to donate more than $5,000. Thanks a mil!

 

We won't ask again until Giving Day in Spetember, but you can always make a tax-deductible donation to supoort our habitat restoration and education programs HERE: 

 

https://www.tandyhills.org/donate

 

 

 

03) Field Report - March

 

That rumbling beneath your feet lately is probably the first wave of the wildflower explosion that's staring to transform Tandy Hills. The Valentine's Week Deep Freeze may have slowed down the native spring wildflowers but, only temporarily. In most years, Winecup, Wild Onion, Flax, Prairie Celestial, Greenthread and Wild Hyacinth, are in bloom by April 1, but not in 2021. However, Purple Paintbrush, Fringed Puccoon, Blue-eyed Grass and a few others including, the aforementioned, Fringed Blue Star were right on time. I saw my first Dragonfly and Moth of the season in mid-March. By the end of the month, honeybees and native pollinators were buzzing. Several hikes along the Iconic Meadows tell me 2021 will be an extraordinary year for wildflowers and their pollinators at Tandy Hills. 

 

Tenpetal Anemone (Anemone berlandieri) is an early bloomer.

 


Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia)

 


A cute little Common Checkered Skipper is ready for spring.

 

Blushing, Purple Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja purpurea) is more plentiful than usual this year.

 


Indian Plantain (Arnoglossum plantagineum)

 


Inland Ceanothus, aka: Jersey Tea (Ceanothus herbaceus

 


An especially handsome and vigorius bloom of Fringed Puccoon (Lithospermum incisum)

 


In early January, City of FW Park & Rec crews did an experimental clearing of brush at the trailhead.

 


It will be interesting to see which species do and do not come back.

 


Say goodbye until next year to the mysterious, Trout Lily.

 


Spring Equinox Day at Tandy Hills

 

04) New Species Report - March

 

There were four new species ID'd in March. The most exciting find was, Blue Funnel-Flower (Androstephium coeruleum), a lovely new early spring wildflower. Others include, Nessus Sphinx Moth(Amphion floridensis), a moth that effectively mimics a bee with its yellow hind stripes and Green-tufted Stubble Moss (Weissia controversabringing the new species total to 1431. One of these is a recent ID of a strange-looking fungi I discovered back in 2011 called, Earthstar. See them all HERE: 

 

https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/tandy-hills-natural-area-stratford-...

 


Blue Funnel-Flower (Androstephium coeruleum) was a most exciting find. DY

 


Nessus Sphinx Moth(Amphion floridensis) looks and acts like a bee but is a moth.

 


Green-tufted Stubble Moss (Weissia controversa) is very common here but had never been recorded on iNat.

 


Earthstar fungi

 

05) Prairie Posse Report

 

On Saturday, March 6th, 14 beautiful, hard-working volunteers representing many ages and backgrounds spent 3.5 hours clearing invasive species on Broadcast Hill, opening up new views at one of the largest unobstructed prairies in Fort Worth. If you would like to give back to your community in a vital way, join us at the next Prairie Posse. 

 

Don Young & Joe Lippert surveying the job.

 

 

 

 

06) PrairieSky / StarParty Report

 

The 2021 schedule has been set and can be found HERE: https://www.tandyhills.org/events/prairie-sky-star-party

 

However, in-person telescope viewings at Tandy Hills remain on hiatus until further notice. FW Astronomical Society rep, Pam Kloepfer, has the April sky watch report for your home use.:

 

"The month of April introduces warmer nights for star gazing! We continue to see the winter constellations heading west. Keep an eye on Orion the Mighty Hunter. As he heads west, his form will turn and spread out further and further across the sky. If you have binoculars, you can see the V in Taurus the Bull and the Pleiades do the same aerobatics. Up from the east, Leo the Lion will rise. Look for the pattern of stars called the Sickle, or backwards-looking question mark. The bright star Regulus sits at the bottom of this asterism. Any cell phone app will help you find these constellations! Mars will be the only nighttime planet visible this month. The Big Dipper is easily visible circling around Polaris. Look for the double star Mizar in its handle. The Full Pink Moon will occur on March 28, so named for pink flowers called phlox that bloom in the early spring."

 

 

07) White Prairie Rose Update

 

I first observed a White Prairie Rose (Rosa foliolosa) at Tandy Hills back in June 2020. I searched for it again in March and was surprised to see its brilliant, red rosehip. They are uncommon here with only a a few specimens, reaching only 6"-12" in height and with a lovely aroma. Tandy Hills is amazing.

 

 

08) Prairie Proverb - Stewart Udall

 

"We have, I fear, confused power with greatness...Plans to protect air, water, wilderness and wildlife are, in fact, plans to protect man."

 

- Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior from 1961 - 1969, under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He played a key role in the enactment of environmental laws such as the, Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and important Amendments to the Wildnreness Act, Endangered Species Act, Land & Water Conservation Fund Act, National Trail System Act and the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act.

 

 

 

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.