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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.

Second Spring

Prairie Notes #142
October 1, 2018

01) Second Spring

02) Field Report - September

03) PrairieSky / StarParty Report

04) Giving Day Report

05) New Species of the Month

06) Best Green Space 2018

07) Goodbye to a Prairie

08) Photographer & Visitor Guidelines

09) Prairie Proverb



01) Second Spring


Back in August the possibility of a decent fall prairie was next to zero. Wildflowers were almost nonexistent and prairie grasses were basically shutting down. The deep cracks in the prairie soil could swallow a Buick. But man oh man, what a difference 13" of rain can make. After four straight months of near-drought conditions, the rain started up in late August and almost hasn't stopped since. The barren land of August is now more like a humid terrarium dotted with mushrooms.


Luckily for us, this means that Tandy Hills is now experiencing something like a second spring, quite literally, in some cases. In the past few weeks I've observed spring-like flowers on, Sundrops (Oenothera berlanderi), Texas Vervain (Verbena halei), New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus herbaceus), Yellow Puff (Neptunia lutea) Drummond's Skullcap (Scutellaria drummondii) and Golden Dalea (Dalea aurea), plants that don't normally bloom this time of year.


Other species such as, Lemon Pennyroyal (Hedeoma reverchonii), Ratany (Krameria lanceolata), Queens Delight (Stillingia texana) and Prairie Acacia (Acacia angustissima) that tend to wind down in September are enjoying a vigorous renewal. Oddly, fall favorites such as, False Gaura (Stenosiphon linifolius), Eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii) and Snow-on-the-Prairie (Euphorbia bicolor), apparently, won't recover in time to match their normal, vigorous fall growth and voulminous numbers.


Prairie grasses have rebounded most joyously on the prairie stage as if they were just waiting for their cue. You can almost see them growing before your eyes. Species appearing dormant just a few weeks ago are either blooming or about to including, Indian Grass, Seep Muhly, White Tridens and Sideoats Grama. You can see the change quite clearly in patches of Little Bluestem whose stunted and brown-ish lower leaves of August are now cloaked in a hearty sheaf of purple-green. 


Another benefit of all this growth is the plethora of critters. Monarch and Sulphur butterflies are feeding on their host plants in large numbers. Beetles are busy marching through the grass. Katydids, moths, bees, wasps, lizards, spiders and many more species are spinning in the web of life. It's a beautiful thing to behold.


So, as you go placidly amid the noise and haste, remember what peace there may be in putting on your rubber boots and finding your own second spring, in its magnificant autumn glory, at Tandy Hills Natural Area.





A typical day in September at Tandy Hills included dark clouds, imminent rain and high humidity.


02) Field Report - September


Rain gear was costume de rigueur for hiking at Tandy Hills in September. The rewards were always exciting and sometimes, breathtaking. Here are a few of my photographic observations.



Monarch Butterfly larvae consuming Side-cluster Milkweed. The plant completely disappeared in a few days.


The caterpillars were only about 1" long when photographed.


Narrowleaf Four O'Clock (Mirablilis linearis) is an uncommon delight of the fall prairie.


One of many mushroom species that popped up in September.


The September 11th sunset, after a thunderstorm, was electrifying.


Gray Hairstreak hanging out upside down.

A handfull of  Wand Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) seeds from a recently exploded pod.

Prairie Acacia (Acacia angustissima) fern-like foliage is especially lush after the rain, resembling a miniature rainforest.


The 1" flowers resemble white bows, sometimes round puffs.


Two-leaved Senna (Senna roemeriana) is a host plant for Sulphur butterflies and had a busy month.


A 1" long Sulphur butterfly larvae the first day I observed it.


A few days later, having dined on Two-leaved Senna, it had transformed.


One of the prettiest caterpillars out there.


This Cloudless Sulphur butterfly could possibly be the metamorphised larvae or, it's mother???


Drummond's Onions are having their normal fall bloom period.


Gay-feather (Liatris aestivalis) are starting to fill out thier purple spikes.


Gulf Fritillary butterfly resting quietly on Indian Grass.


A busy Carpenter Bee enraptured by the beauty of Azure Sage pollen.


One of Tandy Hills' autumn masterpieces: Salvia azurea var. grandiflora, aka: Giant Blue Sage, Pitcher Sage and Azure Sage.


Scudder's Bush Katydid surveying a kingdom of Azure Sage.


Normally a morning bllomer, Hairy Petunia (Ruellia humulis), looks fresh in late evening due to overcast sky.


It's increasingly rare to spot a toad at Tandy Hills. Good luck little lady!


Hairy Grama grass glistening in the sunrays after days of clouds and rain.


One last September sunset to welcome October.



03) PrairieSky / StarParty Report


Monsoon-like weather spoiled another star party in September but we will try again on October 13. Fort Worth Astronomical Society rep, Pam Kloepfer, writes the following notes for October Skies:


With the arrival of Fall, we can hope for cooler, crisper nights. Cygnus the Swan will be winging westward, but will still be in prime viewing location to observe its double star Albireo. That being said, the Summer Triangle will also be in view, and the Great Square of Pegasus will almost be over-head. Blazing Venus and Jupiter will be calling it an “early night,” setting soon after sunset, but Saturn and bright red Mars will continue to shine on for the evening. Venus will be in a crescent phase and will look like a tiny moon. The Moon itself will also be in a crescent phase, making those craters and mountains easily stand out along the terminator.




04) Giving Day Report


Thanks to the 30-odd people who made donations to Friends of Tandy Hills on September 20, totalling more than $2,200. We appreciate your confidence in FOTHNA to stretch every dollar received to help fund our ongoing prairie restoration and environmental/outdoor education programs.



05) New Species of the Month


This is inteneded as a new monthly category of Prairie Notes, assuming that at least one new species is discovered and ID'd each month. September was extraordinary with at least eight new species confirmed as Research Grade on iNaturalist. The count always increaases when Texas Parks & Wildlife biologist, Sam Kieschnick stops by on his way home from his indoor office. He and a few others helped up the species count to 1037.


New species include, 1 butterfly, 2 beetles, 3 moths and 3 plants. One of the most exciting finds was, Pink Fluffgrass (Tridens congestus), a native Texas grass that, until now, had not been officially observed at Tandy Hills. I will report on new finds next month. For now, check them all out at the Tandy Hills Project page of iNaturalist, HERE:


Pink Fluffgrass is endemic to Texas but never recorded at Tandy Hills until September 2018.


06) Best Green Space 2018


For the thrid time, Tandy HIlls has snagged a Fort Worth Weekly Best Green Space Award. We are humbled and honored. Thanks a mil FW Weekly!




07) Goodbye to a Prairie


Amy Martin, has penned an enlightening report for Green Source DFW about the probable demise of an amazing prairie/woodland area in Richardson named, Beck's Creek Tallgrass Prairie. The report reminded me that, there, but for the grace of God (and Friends of Tandy Hills) Tandy Hills could be gone. Excellent report worth your time:



08) Photographer & Visitor Guidelines


Tandy Hills Natural Area is not a regular public park. It is a protected natural area containing hundreds of native plant and animal species. Certain activities are not allowed to insure the protection of this rare native landscape. We have put forth some practical guidelines to ensure everyone has an enjoyable expereince at Tandy Hills without compromising this vital prairie remnant. Find the "new rules" at this link:



09) Prairie Proverb


"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all daylight hours in the open air."


Nathaniel Hawthorne(1804 – 1864), American novelist and short story writer




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.