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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.

Mood-Altering Prairie

Prairie Notes #104
August 1, 2015

1) Mood-Altering Prairie
2) Field Report - July
3) Giving Day is On the Way
4) Sketching the Prairie
5) Post Oak & Prairie Journal
6) Prairie Proverb


01) Mood-Altering Prairie

Are you suffering from rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation? Worry no more. Help is but a hike away. 

I have often testified about the amazing power of nature to aid physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, especially for city-dwellers. Past issues of Prairie Notes have mentioned numerous studies making that connection. (My fellow nature mystics know what I mean.) Now comes a new study published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that adds to that growing body of research.

The study indicates that urbanization is associated with increased levels of mental illness that exposure to nature can reduce. By my estimation, folks who saunter and hike at Tandy Hills are less likely to have mental health issues. Sure, one can joke about this but it's also something to seriously ponder as the population here swells and green space is reduced.

Stressed out people often make bad choices and get crazy ideas that could impact all of us. Next thing you know some desk-bound out of touch council member will suggest turning Tandy Hills into a soccer park or damming up the hills and creating Tandy Lake. Yikes! Eternal vigilance....

I'll end with a few appropriate words from the patron saint of Tandy Hills:

We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope; without it, life in the city would drive all men (and women) into crime, drugs or psychoanalysis." 
Edward Abbey from Desert Solitaire (1968)


Bluebells of happiness and a hike can help you avoid rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation.

02) Field Report - July

Only a crazy person would venture into the furnace of Tandy Hils in July, right? Well, crazy like a fox, perhaps. There is less to see but that just makes you look closer. Early morning and evening are actually quite tolerable and good for mind, body and soul. Here's a few pics of what crossed my path in July 2015.

Wand Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora), a beautuful if odd-looking prairie species, having a good year.

A Queen butterfly larvae feasting on a Wand Milkweed

Silver Bluestem seeds sparkling in the sun on a July afternoon.

Gayfeather (Liatris sp.) tips are turning various stages of purple at Tandy Hills.

Gayfeather covered hillsides are ripening up here and there.

Signs of fall: Young hirsute leaves of Snow on the Prairie. Good showing expected next month.

The inner sanctum of Eryngo, still in the green stage with very pale purpling.

Sun-lit tips of False Gaura (Oenothera glaucifolia) having another great year at Tandy Hills.
See last years record-breaking 12 footer here (thanks to Danny Owens for water feature):

Two-flower Milkvine (Matelea biflora) a milkweed cousin, dispersed seeds from pods first observed in May.

Round-headed Dalea or White Prairie Clover (Dalea multiflora) is a reliable summer bloomer.

Pollinators love 'em, too.

A picturesque prairie scene of Compassplant, False Gaura and Indian Blanket near the outdoor clasroom.

03) Giving Day is On the Way

The most importan fundraising day of the year for Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area is coming up on September 17. Please mark your calendar. Last year was very successful for our non-profit organization. See our 2014 campaign HERE. Please support us again this year.

04) Sketching the Prairie

Despite the often unbearable July heat, a few artists were inspired to paint and draw at Tandy Hills. Jen Schultes and Kim Clemmons had an impromptu plein air session on July 9 that produced some nice work. Debora Young has been turning out a few quick on-site sketches to keep up her art chops while I follow along with my camera doing some digital sketching. Are you sketching on the prairie? Send us photos for inclusion a future Prairie Notes.

Jen Schultes' watercolor of the Tandy Wind Towers.

Debora Young's pen and ink sketch of dried American Basketflower

Don Young's view of American Basketflowers

Debora Young and Olive the Prairie Dog seeking shade and inspiration.

05) Post Oak & Prairie Journal

A new issue of PPO&J is out that features an important report titled, Viability of Silphium albiflorum in Tarrant County. For laypersons, that means, White Rosinweed or White Compassplant, one of the signature plants at Tandy Hills. Under the leadership of Dr. Bruce Benz, a team of researchers at Texas Wesleyan University have been gathering data on this species at Tandy Hills and other area locations for several years. The bottom line indicates that this marvelous prairie plant, endemic to north Texas, is critically endangered and threatened with extinction. See link to report below.

One interesting factoid I learned from this report is that, with 1691 individual plants, Tandy Hills has the most of any area studied. We want to preserve every one of them.

White Rosinweed (Silphium albiflorum) drawing by Debora Young from Prairie Wildflowers Illustrated

06) Prairie Prover

"I believe in God only I spell it Nature."
"Creo en Dios, solo que lo llamo Naturaleza."

Frank Lloyd Wright


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.