You are here

Prairie Notes header

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.

October People

Prairie Notes #131
November 1, 2017

01) October People
02) Field Report - October
03) October Vistas
04) Scary Prairie IMPORTANT
05) Freaks of Nature: UPDATE
06) Little Bluestem Seeds: In Stores Now!
07) Painting the American Prairie Reserve
08) Prairie Proverb


01) October People

If an ad agency were to come up with a concise blurb to promote Tandy Hills they would probably write something like this:

"The two best times to visit Tandy Hills are spring and autumn.
Come for the wildflowers of spring and the grasses of fall." 

Sounds about right to me. So, here we are right in the middle of one of the two best times to check out this amazing natural resource in the heart of the city. October and November, with Indian summer/autumn days fading slowly (we hope) into winter are, indeed, delightful times to visit the prairie. Incidentially, I've noted that, some people are "seasonallly oriented." That is, some are strictly into spring while others are strictly autumnal. It may be an introvert-extrovert thing. (Summer and winter people are obviously extremists.) Which are you?

Spring is the time of renewal, when the days are longer and wildflowers practically explode from the ground. The birds and the bees are busy, too. It's a time of babies and young lovers getting their portraits taken among the flowers. It's an exciting time to be outside after the short, dark and cold days of winter. Spring is mostly about detail, looking close, rather than wide panoramic views. Spring is definitely the season of extroverts.

Then there are the autumn or October People, more often, but not always, more seasoned or solitary folks. The autumn prairie is about reflection, looking back than planning ahead, long views, short days. It's less colorful, of course, too. The technicolor cacophony of spring recedes back into the Earth to be replaced by gently waving stands of monochromatic prairie grass. (There are notable exceptions to this as seen in #2 below.) Autumn is for introverts.

Then there are the folks to whom Tandy Hills is their happy place anytime of the year and think the above is simply stereotypical hogwash. Whichever you are, I hope you will be inspired to, "come for the grasses of fall" - in person - after checking out the photos below.


02) Field Report - October

As mentioned above, October is mostly about grasses, less color and detail and longer views. But there are notable exceptions as you can see from my October photo notebook.

Sideoats Grama, decked in cheery red seed tips, beckons the eye in October.

Clouded Crimson moth larvae (Schinia gaurae), feasting on False Gaura in the setting sun.

Heath Aster, with its tiny daisy-like flowers, is one of the three varieties of aster at Tandy Hills.

Texas Aster, with purple-ish flowers and bronze colored leaves, is quite common at Tandy Hills...

...the very same species just a short distance away has white flowers.

Fall is the time of intoxicatingly fragrant, Ladies Tresses Orchids. I oberved them in a various stages of development.

Yellow Prairie Broomweed makes a striking visual contrast with Giant Blue Sage.

Red Oaks look fetching, adorned with their fall acorns.

Skydrop Aster (Symphyotrichum patens) blooms in October thru November.

Queens Delight, reveals its reddish stems in the fall.

This is the most dense patch of tiny Palafoxia flowers I've ever seen. Look for it at sunset for best views.

Glamour photograpers are one of the invasive species who are taking over Tandy Hills.

These lovelies contribute to the web of life at Tandy Hills.

03) October Vistas

The year 2017 was the best for prairie grasses since 2010. Lots of rain is the biggest reason why. October is the best time to appreciate the wide views of Tandy Hills. Here are a few of my favorite landscape shots, featuring the grasses of autumn: Indian, Big and Little Bluestem and others, from October.

Big Bluestem hasn't partied like this since 2010!

"Ghost Grass of Autumn" aka: Seep or Reverchon Muhly, glows misty pink in the right light. Creepy, no?

October sunset on the prairie along View Street features a large expanse of White Tridens grass.

My favorite hillock at Tandy Hills in mid-October is covered in Little Bluestem.

The Tandy Hills look inviting under a colorful October sunset.

A 7-foot tall patch of Indian Grass, greets you near the trailhead.

04) Scary Prairie

As mentioned last month, the PrairieSky / StarParty on November 11th will be extra special. Come for the stars but stay for a LIVE telling of The Legend of the Tandy Hills Witchey Tree. Come sit around the campfire with a cup of hot chocolate and hear the grisly tale come to life. Peggy and Gene of, Twice Upon a Time Storytellers, will astound you with their storytelling skills. You will be richly rewarded.

Their performance has been partially funded by a grant from, Texas Commission on the Arts.

05) Freaks of Nature: UPDATE

Back in 2010, I happened to observe several species of wildflowers with unusual white-colored, albino looking variations. I reported on this in Pairie Notes #42.   The are several possible reasons for this phenomena. Sometimes it's simply the time of day or stage of maturity. It can also be attributed to albinism, a natural possibility within a large enough biogical population.

Since 2010 I've seen quite a few other examples at Tandy Hills. Check out the photos below. Learn more about plant albinism at the Ladybird Wildflower Center webiste using this LINK.

Silverleaf Nightshade flowers are typically purple.

Blue-eyed Grass flowers are very uncommon in white.

White Winecup is actually the dominant color at Tandy Hills. Red, pink and purple are also present.

Purple Coneflower in white-variation is very rare at Tandy Hills. (Note the different seedhead color in the white and purple flowers.)

Purple Paintbrush in pure white is an arresting sight.

Engelmann Sage is rarely observed with white flowers.

Prairie Verbena, typically purple, contrasts sharply with white variation.

This striking image really stood out in a field of red Indian Blanket.

Not as rare as others, but False Foxglove are purple in color more often than not.

Texas Bluebells in white variation are an uncommonly gorgeous sight at Tandy Hills.

This Eryngo bloom stood in striking contrast to the typical deep purple flowers one sees in the fall.

06) Little Bluestem Seeds: In Stores Now!

Central Market, of all places, recently added Little Bluestem seeds for sale. Grab a pack when shopping for your groceries or pick a handfull at your local prairie.

07) Painting the American Prairie Reserve

Patagonia clothing company recently published this interesting essay and photos by painter, Emilie Lee, about her experience painting at the American Prairie Reserve, in Montana. Use this LINK to read all about it.

While you're at it, check out the website for APP. It's rather an amazing place. When complete it will be the largest protected area in the continental US and home to all the native wildlife that once roamed the Great Plains.

Emilie Lee, painting the Montana prairie.


08) Prairie Proverb

The fairest Home I ever knew
Was founded in an Hour
By Parties also that I knew
A spider and a Flower-
A manse of mechlin and of Floes-


- Emily Dickinson, from her "envelope poems", 1877

Prairie Notes is the official newsletter of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area. All content by Don Young except where otherwise noted.