Swooning Over Plants at Gus Engeling WMA – June 2023
23 February 2024 | 11:36 am

I don’t know if I can express how much I love Gus Engeling WMA. I wish I lived closer to it, though perhaps it wouldn’t be as special? Nah, I think it would and I would probably know its ins and outs a little better. I’m constantly drawn back to thinking about south Florida and how “close” everything was, how driveable within a 1-3 hours a place could be, most places in the 1-2 hr range and many within the 1 hr or less range. Feel like going to the Keys for a long day? Done. More in the mood for interior slow moving creeks and rivers? Done. Dwarf cypress and orchids more your speed? Easily obtainable. Sure, places like the rolling hills of Ocala National Forest or the bogs of Apalachicola were further away but even if you lived up there you could easily just replace the previous options I gave and put in a slew of others! In Texas, it is a lot harder to come by. All of the public lands are spread out and of course, Texas is a massive state. So far we’ve tied our trips to GE WMA with trips to DFW to pick up or drop off Forest for grandparent weekends in the summer. And we really need to modify our summer trips to spring and fall trips because boy, summer out there is brutal! I would love to walk further back into the park than we have because the heat makes it miserable during summer. Like usual, photos first, more writing at the end. First up, Texas Sandmint, Rhododon ciliatus. This plant is divine! You can find it scattered on the Carrizo-Wilcox ridge from San Antonio to GE WMA with a few sites in NE Houston (maybe the Lake Houston Wilderness Park?) During this June trip I was really out there to see Smooth Jewelflower, Streptanthus hyacinthoides. This mustard family relative is heavily featured at GE WMA and a few other sites in East Texas and then disjunct down in SE Texas around Kountze (deep sand!). Fourpoint Evening Primrose, Oenothera rhombipetala. Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa interior. I watched this plant for a while because ants were crawling all over it for nectar! Purple Pleatleaf, Alophia drummondii Georgia Frostweed, Crocanthemum georgianum Trailing Rhatanay, Krameria lanceolata Pickering’s Dawnflower, Stylisma pickeringii Variegated fritillary, Euptoieta claudia Rattlesnake flower, Brazoria truncata Velvet-leaf milkweed, Asclepias tomentosa. This is one of those weird, very disjunct species that sometimes happens here in Texas. There’s a population of this milkweed at GE WMA and a few other sites in NE Texas and then….nothing…until you get to Florida or Georgia. The botanists I follow on IG seem to think this is probably a different species but no one has done any genetic work on it to verify. Clasping milkweed, Asclepias amplexicaulis with seedpods. I’ve been trying to see this one in flower for forever so seedpods were the next best thing. Someday…flowers. Silky prairie clover, Dalea villosa Texas greeneyes, Berlandiera betonicifolia More velvet-leaf milkweed More streptanthus! (swoon) More prairie clover (more swooning!) Lanceleaf blanketflower, Gaillardia aestivalis We missed the peak blooming for scarlet beardtongue, Penstemon murrayanus. I think we need to bump up a trip there by a month this year. Red milkweed, Asclepias rubra Xanthotype sp. hiding in the vegetation in a creek area I was also very excited to see these, too, featherbells, Stenanthium gramineum! I saw them again in Louisiana a week later—still so gorgeous! Scarlet beardtongue in seed. Sand milkweed, Asclepias arenaria Sometimes when I write these posts up I know it gets redundant and not very elaborative to say “I was so excited” or “Swoon” or “I love this plant” but really, that’s what I feel when I am at these places. I LOVE THESE PLANTS! They really are so cool and just a delight to be able to even get to see them. It saddens me to know most people have no idea just what is out there to explore and see, what plants exist and what we’ve lost. It’s hard to even write it out or try to comprehend it, though I try. I mostly just want to look at cool plants, appreciate their beauty, and see what other life is also appreciating their existence. Plants mean wildlife of all forms and that is a delight in and of itself, too. I think Lady Bird Johnson sums it up: “For me, wildflowers are joy-giving. They have enriched my life and fed my soul and given beautiful memories to sustain me.”

Cemetery Botanizing – Old Sanders Cemetery | 5
21 February 2024 | 2:47 pm

This is probably my favorite cemetery botanizing from last year. Write up at the end! Nuttall’s Deathcamas, Toxicoscordion nuttallii Yellow star grass, Hypoxis hirsuta Tenpetal anemone, Anemone berlandieri Ozark milkvetch, Astragalus distortus Fraser’s wild onion, Allium fraseri Texas toadflax, Nuttallanthus texanus Prairie nymph, Herbertia lahue Right before I went to this cemetery I had seen people in central Texas posting photos of Nuttall’s death camas and had checked iNaturalist to see what its range was. There were some stragglers into the Brazos Valley and knowing where this cemetery was located and how it was on the transition zone between ecological regions, I had a hope that I could possibly find it at this cemetery or a couple of others on the far edge of my range for botanizing during the lunch hour. I had used Find a Grave to look at photos that people had posted and unfortunately Google Streetview was not available because no one had driven down this particular road, so I had to use Google Earth with the Find a Grave photos to guess what the habitat was going to be like. It certainly held promise! The area was near where a wildfire swept through in 2011, one we had had to evacuate from at the time (our rental house was fine). Either way, I figured that I would find something interesting at this particular cemetery. And I certainly did. I pulled up and spotted the death camas right away. I was giddy but tried to not get too worked up about it because I could be wrong—I was still 50′ away and maybe I was going to be mistaken. But when I rolled up to where they were growing, I was right in my suspicions! Later I uploaded it to iNat and checked BONAP for what they had for county records and it did not show up in Montgomery county! So I went to SERNEC to see what they had for it and there was nothing for this county! I was and am pretty sure this is a county record plant! I went back a few days later to dig up a plant to press so I could get it vouchered in an herbarium and then we went off to the Davis Mountains for Spring Break. I’d only taken photos with my phone so when I got back I wanted to take better photos with my camera. Well, they had come through and mowed! I was very disappointed! How could you mow these beauties? So, I’ve been on a quest this whole year, waiting for them to bloom again so I can take better photos. As of early February the plants are up but I haven’t been back recently to see if any of them are sending bloom stalks up. I suspect with this warmer weather this week they will be blooming soon. The goal is to catch them before the mowers this year. The rest of the cemetery also held some interesting species, such as the Ozark milkvetch and the Fraser’s wild onion. I went back later in the spring to see what was blooming and found the prairie nymphs. I never made it there in the fall and will have to try to go this coming fall to see if anything interesting blooms during that season there. This little cemetery will certainly be a remnant for these species because Magnolia is swallowing land to the west rapidly. When we moved here in 2011 this area was still pretty quiet and very much rural. The opening of a toll road around the city, connecting with SH 105 to the north, a means for making it easier to get to College Station, has really opened up so many tracts of land to development. I’m hoping in another week or two I’ll be sharing much better photos of Nuttall’s death camas here for y’all!

Slow Steps to Accomplishment.
20 February 2024 | 3:32 pm

I was shifting around papers on my desk at work today (yesterday, by the time this is published) and found a spiral bound copy of The Mosses of Texas I’d bought from BRIT a few years ago. It’s had several vintage copies of other botanical field guides from mid-century botanists, including Eula Whitehouse, stacked on top of it. I’d flipped through those when I’d initially bought them but had meant to really soak in them and digest them. And, I haven’t. I’d bought the moss book because I wanted to actually get good at moss identification. Chris even bought me Mosses of the Gulf South last summer and again, I haven’t cracked that open. I mean, yeah, sitting with a moss book and actually digesting it so that I can key out a moss is going to take more than flipping through the book over a long weekend. (If anyone wants to supplement this addiction to learning, you can buy me The Ferns and Lycophytes of Texas, too.) It’s not just all of that, there’s too much I want to do. This post is a riff off of my recent Thoughts on Time post if you can’t tell. Because I can’t get out of my head all of the things I want to do. I’ve taken to writing out what I want to do and what needs to be done in multiple journals multiple times a day and week. And I know Rome wasn’t built in a day—so I’m trying to figure out how to take small bites to complete projects. A couple of pieces of advice I’ve heard recently, one pertains to writing: Finish Things. As in, finish the entire draft instead of starting something new. Finish a chapter before moving on. Etc. The other is from Brooke McAlary at The Tortoise, formerly the Slow Home Podcast, and that is the idea of the 1%. Here’s her summary of the 1%: “1% effort towards a long-term goal or practise: In this instance, the power lies in both the consistency of effort and faith that – over time – these efforts will add up. This means taking regular action that leads to positive change.” And so, I’m trying to take those two approaches to heart. I’ve been working out consistently since early January, taking 30 minutes at lunch most days to lift weights and a few evenings a week to ride my indoor bike. I didn’t work out at all last week and paid for it dearly with my hip and lower back acting up after a weekend traveling in Chris’ truck for camping and sleeping on the air mattress. It’s feeling a little better because I beat it up working out (yes, I don’t get it, but putting my hip through the ringer in a work out makes it feel better—a pain that takes away a different pain.) but it hit home how much that 30 minute session 4-5x’s a week means to my body. It’s a little bit of effort for a lot of gain that doesn’t necessarily reflect in the ways that I would want it or would have gotten in my 20s (a smaller pants size). Another thing I’ve worked on since January was editing the first part (50K words) of my NaNoWriMo book from 2021. It doesn’t suck! I worked on it a little most days or at least a few times a week and managed to get it edited in about six weeks. It seems like a long time but really it wasn’t. Now I know where to go from here to finish the book and where to go back and edit in some things later. But now I need to actually do that work. And in my mind it has to be all or nothing, not that the 1% effort that is actually needed to accomplish it so I hit those hurdles of not doing the work. Meanwhile, I have other ideas flowing in, plus little commitments here and there for other projects, and garden and house projects. The list keeps growing. I’ve been trying to Do Less—less social media, less scrolling—well, taking away has meant actually doing more, the things I was putting off or not focusing on. Amazing how much creativity comes flowing back. I’ve even stopped podcasting this year, quitting one entirely and putting another on hiatus with thoughts to end it completely at some point in the near future. I write all of this for me, mostly. I’ve gone back through all of my writing in the past and none of this is new for me. It’s just…me. hah! It’s what I do…freak out when I can’t accomplish things in a day/week/month and have to talk myself down from it and then I just don’t do it. You might be saying, Misti you should prioritize…and you’d be correct. Which is what I’m doing. But still, those other projects, the other ideas, keep trying to overtake the others and present themselves as juicy little morsels of creative ideas that seem better than whatever I’m focusing on now. I’m including a random photo from our Appalachian Trail hike because when I get like this I tend to want to curl and shrink everything in and just put one foot in front of the other and sleep in a tent every night. Because that’s where the simplicity is. On the AT, or any trail for that matter, the goal is to get to your camp every night, however far away that might be, and you stop and filter some water, eat some food, air out your socks, maybe lay in the sun if you can find it, and that’s it. Did my mind constantly wander to ideas of things to do…yes, sometimes. But my mind was also quiet from all of the external noises, too. It gets that way when we go camping for a weekend as well. I like a quiet mind. When my mind is going-going-going, it drives me nuts and wakes me up at night. Well, this is getting a little tangential and I’ve written and deleted several sentences already that were a bit much so I’m gonna leave it at that. I’m going to slowly whittle my ideas down and put the good ones into shape and get to work. More rants about time and creativity and getting it all done are sure to be a feature here again in the near future!

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