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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.


Prairie Notes #153
September 1, 2019

01) Eryn-a-Go-Go
02) Field Report - August
03) FOTHNA Teams with Amon Carter Museum
04) PrairieSky / StarParty News
05) Vote for Us!
06) Prairie Bookshelf
New Species - August
08) Snow-On-the-Prairie Opioid Study
09) North TX Giving Day is Near
10) Benbrook Prairie Needs YOU!
11) In Memoriam: Barbara Taylor
12) Prairie Proverb - Walt Whitman



01) Eryn-a-Go-Go


If you had a monthly wall calendar of Tandy Hills wildflowers, the month of August would be represented by Eryngo. One of Tandy Hills' most strikng late summer/early fall, native plant species is having its moment. Right now. Eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii), is hard to miss with its fuzzy, pineapple-shaped flower and prickly, spiny, spiky leaves that fade into and out of of purple and green.


In early summer they are pale green and hardly noticeable among the more colorful wildflowers. But as summer fades into fall, Eryngo grows taller and branches out. The pale green color turns to deep purple, leaves and all, as if dipped in a vase of purple dye. This process transforms Eryngo into endless variations, reminiscent of snowflakes, no two are alike. 


Although prickly like thistles, they are actually in the Parsley family growing, 1' - 4' tall and, blooming from August - November. Pollinators love it and are seemingly undeterred by the prickliness. I've observed bees, wasps, butterflies and bugs extracting pollen form them. Spiders use them as home base to extract the pollinators! The Wheel of Life can be dreadfully cruel. 


Eryngo is one of the few brightly-colored plant species in late summer. At Tandy Hills it is often seen growing, rather complimentarily, near Snow-On-the-Prairie making a trek to the summer prairie more than worthwhile. Come on in and check out this exotic prairie wildflower while supplies last!





(Editor's Note: This is a 2-part report. See, Field Report, below for the rest of the story.)













02) Field Report - August


Although much of August was hot and dry putting the kibosh on Gayfeather, there were 3 nicely spaced rain events that kept the grasses and prairie wildlife humming right along. I observed lots of pollinators, bugs, lizards, spiders, drgonflies, damselflies, even a Cottontail Rabbit and a kettle of Hawks. But on the evening of the 29th something mystical happened. . . .


I decided to brave the heat just prior to sunset and hike to a favorite place on an east-facing slope below the Hawk Trail. Snow-On-the-Prairie, False Gaura and Eryngo gently danced in the distance tuning my eyes theri direction. As I came closer, the wind grew calm. The light had that mysterious quality that seems to make time stand still. Texas Spiny Lizards, Little Brown Skinks and various spiders scatterd at my feet down into their subterranean lairs. It was like I had unexpectedly intruded on a secret world that grew quiet as I approached.


I set about my pre-determined task of taking close-up pics of the Eryngo, fascinated by the variety of color combinations. Stepping back for a wider view, I becamse aware of several species of bees, bugs and wasps quietly working over the pollen. Stepping closer again to get pics, I was startled by the unexpected sight of a preying mantis in my peripheral vision. Her triangular head with pinpoint black eyes stared curiously at me but, otherwise, she barely moved, kindly posing for the camera.


As I moved down the trail lined with Eryngo and Snow on the Prairie, I noted that nearly every other plant had its own Sloth-like Mantis, all staring anonymously at me in the gathering gloom. There were literraly dozens of them in close proximity. Not giving in to fear of the slightly macabre setting and keeping my head about me...I re-focused my vision into this mystical world. Popping out of the twilight like Cheshire Cats were bees, grasshoppers, flies, and other bugs. Green Lynx spiders were weaving strands of web silk like electric power lines through the spiky leaves, the remains of past victims entangled in Eryngo leaves.


As darkness descended on that hot August night I got what I came for and so much more.


Green Lynx Spiders use their web silk to trap and eat pollinators.



Snakeweed Grasshopper 

Carolina Mantis. Of the dozen or so I saw, most were hanging upside down.

Bee Fly

Jagged Ambush Bug (Phymata) lunching on a dead bee.

Assassin Bug (Zelus)

American Bumble Bee

Leafhopper Assassin Bug (Zelus renardii)

Snow-On-the-Prairie (Euphorbia bicolor) is a magent for wasps of all kinds. 

Tarantula Hawk Wasp (Entypus fulvicornis)


Umbrella Paper Wasp (Polistis)


Paper Wasp (Polistes dorsalis)

Texas Spiny Lizards are VERY plentiful this year.







I stumbled upon this mysterious arrangement in the middle of a prairie that someone, something of some thing created.


03) FOTHNA Teams with Amon Carter Museum


On your next visit to Tandy Hills, you can play a part in an unusual art project and exhibition coming soon to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art titled: "The Perilous Adventures of Mark Dion."  Here's how it works:


Beginning September 5, at the View Street entrance, you will find a little, house-shaped box mounted atop on a pole. Inside the box you will find a stack of pre-addressed and stamped postcards. Take one of the cards, channel your inner artist self and draw, paint or otherwise describe a view of Tandy Hills. You can do this in-situ at Tandy Hills or in the privacy of your own home. Drop the postcard in a mailbox.


So what's it all about Alfie? I'll let Peggy Spier, Manager of Interpretation & Accessibility at the Amon Carter explain:


" Present-day artist Mark Dion trails four historical protagonists, making four journeys through Texas over the course of two years in search of greater understanding. Inspired by the 19th-century explorer tradition, he traverses thousands of miles, meets with dozens of guides, and sends back hundreds of items to form his sculptural travelogue The Perilous Texas Adventures of Mark Dion at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. You’re invited to pick up a pre-addressed and stamped postcard at the View Street entrance between September 5 through December 2, channel your inner artist, and draw your most memorable Texas adventure. Then drop the postcard in the mail; you might even see it on display during the exhibition from February 9 – May 17, 2020 at the Carter. Happy trails! "

Learn more about the Mark Dion exhibition at the Amon Carter website HERE:







04) PrairieSky / StarParty News - August


A nice crowd of about 50 showed up for the August star party to look at the moon, Jupiter, Saturn and some double stars through 10 different scopes. Here's FW Astronomical Society representative, Pam Kloepfer, describing what's happening on September 7:


"During the month of September, we can still observe the Summer Triangle. It consists of three stars in three separate constellations - bright Vega in Lyra the Lyre, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle, the southern-most point. Look for an “isosceles triangle” in the skies above. Within the constellation Lyra, lies the Ring Nebula. This deep-sky object can be dimly seen with a telescope among city lights, and resembles a small “smoke ring.”  The giant planets Jupiter and Saturn will continue to shine in the night sky, and the moon will be waxing gibbous on September 7. The Fall Equinox arrives on September 23."






05) Vote for Us!


You did say that, Tandy Hills Natural Area is your favorite Neighborhood Park, didn't you? But of course. The annual, Fort Worth Weekly's, Best of Fort Worth ballot is now online. Vote for us on the Culture page under Best Neighborhood Park. Deadline to vote is September 11. Find your ballot HERE.



06) Prairie Bookshelf


Last month I mentioned that mosquitoes are the #1 killer on the planet. The book I quoted from and another were recently reviewed in the NY Times. Catch a Buzz With Two New Books About Bugs


"In “The Mosquito,” Timothy Winegard examines the history of man’s “deadliest predator.” In “Buzz, Sting, Bite,” Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson looks at how insects have shaped human civilization."




07) New Species - August


The species count increased by at least 4 in August bringing the new total to 1240. Here they are:


Creeping Chaffweed (Alternanthera pungens)

Fruit Fly (Pyracantha gentiles)

Longhorn Beetle (Anelaphus moestus)

Star Rosette Lichen (Physcia stellaris)


Fruit Fly (Pyracantha gentiles). Photo & ID by, Bob O'Kennon


Star Rosette Lichen (Physcia stellaris). Photo & ID by, Bob O'Kennon


08) Snow-On-the-Prairie Opioid Study


Snow On the Prairie (Euphorbia bicolor), a common prairie plant is being studied by researchers at Texas Women’s University as a promising and non-addictive alternative to opioids. The Dallas Morning News reported the story on August 28. Watch a video and read the story HERE.



09) North TX Giving Day is Near


You are encouraged to remember Friends of Tandy Hills on 9/19/19. That is when you make your annual donations to local non-profits via Giving DayTandy Hills, a Lone Star Legacy Park, requires funds for prairie restoration, invasive species eradication, trail maintenance as well as for outdoor education programs. For inspiration, read a bunch of embarrassingly flattering testimonials HERE.


> > > On 9/19/19, go HERE to make a donation > > >



10) Benbrook Prairie Needs YOU!


One of the largest remaining tracts of native, old growth Fort Worth Prairie near Benbrook Lake comprising more than 500 acres, is needing your attention. An important public meeting to update the Management Plan for the US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) took place on August 21. It was the first Management Plan update in 45 years. Public comments are being accepted until September 22, 2019.


Your comments to USACE should stress the importance of protecting all native wildlife including grasslands, nesting birds, migratory pollinators like Monarchs, native plant diversity, our watersheds and outdoor non-consumptive uses that protect this priceless resource. We need to make sure the Management Plan guards against any future degradation of this rare native prairie.


Learn more about the project HerE:


Send your comments HERE:


photos by Jarid Manos


11) In Memoriam: Barbara Taylor


Barbara Taylor, a gifted musician who performed at several Prairie Fests, died on August 19. She and partner, Jeff Gibbons performed together as Everybody’s Darlin’, often as the opening act, elevating the quality of the music and warming up the crowd. She is greatly missed. (Photo from 2015 Prairie Fest)




12) Prairie Proverb - 


"... while I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara Falls and the Upper Yellowstone, and the like afford the greatest shows, I am not so sure but the prairies and the plains, while less stunning at first sight, last longer, fill the aesthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest, and make North America's characteristic landscape."


- Walt Whitman, (1819 - 1892), from Specimen Days (!879)

2019 is the 200th anniversary of Walt Whitman's birth. In his honor, the US Postal Service is issuing a commemorative stamp to be issued on September 12. Read the press release HERE.
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.