About the Center
Nature Trail Tour May, 2006
Take a virtual tour of the Sibley Nature Tour!
[Additional Tours: February, 2006 | April, 2006 | July, 2006]
Richard Galle and Burr Williams contributed the photos for the May virtual trail.
Click on each image to see a larger version; use your browser's "Back" button to return to this page.
The Sibley Nature Center promotes xeriscaping the use of drought adaptive plants for landscaping. Most of the beds at the center get no extra moisture at present only the Reid Native Plant garden west of the building is watered. Desert willow lines the parking lot northeast of the building, and a huge Arizona rosewood is at the northeast corner of the center.
A closeup of a desert willow blossom shows it is not a willow at all!
A closeup of the Arizona rosewood blossom reveals a honey bee (and unfortunately all honey bees have to be respected as potentially being Africanized!)
In the Aubrey and Jean Reid Native Plant garden in front of the building, a yellow Hesperaloe graces the center of the garden. Ron Gass of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery in Phoenix developed this color form of the more common Red Yucca.
A horticultural form of juniper beneath a large desert willow is at the southwest corner of the building.
A roadrunner lives near the building, and has been seen carrying sticks as it builds a nest. We have not found the nest, yet! It hunts along the windbreak row of eastern red cedars north of the parking lot.
Just north of the windbreak is a huge old buffalo gourd. When it is blooming, a person can find a large clearwing moth that looks like a bumblebee. The moth is only found on gourd.
A mexican hat germinated, grew, and bloomed next to the gourd, but disappeared the day after this picture was taken and rabbits do not usually eat the species.
A person can step outside of the Sibley Nature Center anytime of day, anytime of the year, and find a whitewinged dove. Some people believe they say "who cooks for you" and others believe they say "que lastima." They nest from March until November in the trees around the center.
From May until September a person can usually find a whiptail lizard. They dig up beetle grubs as well as catching grasshoppers. Whiptails run over 20 miles an hour, so only roadrunners can catch them.
May brings yucca blossoms. Three species grow in the pastures of the Sibley Nature Center, and hybridize freely. The red coloration on the buds of this one may indicate that it has some of the genes of a fourth species (Torrey yucca).
The white pronuba moth lands on a yucca blossom and takes the pollen from the stamen, then drills a hole in the large central style, deposits the pollen and an egg. The pronuba moth is the only pollinator of the yucca.
Other insects utilize yuccas a tiny crematogaster ant has climbed three feet high. If we had more time, maybe we could have figured out why! The blossoms are edible they taste like broccoli!
Yucca campestris (the "sanddune" yucca) has perfectly spheroid blossoms. One stalk has finished blooming and the petals have all fallen. Next to it, the blossoms are falling and one has stuck on a leaf of the yucca.
If a person opened one of these green seedpods a small worm can be found the larvae of the pronuba moth. The little larvae is edible, too it tastes like an almond!
Yucca angustifolia has bloom inflorescences without branches, unlike that of yucca campestris. This clump is probably all connected underground.
A few mesquites were still blooming in late May. On the about the center page, click on mesquite blossoms insect research to learn what comes to the blossoms.
Mesquite pods can be as long as 6 inches. As they ripen, another set of insects come to harvest the bounty. Click on the essays section and in the Invertebrates section of Wild on the Prairie click on the "ecology of ants as discovered by children" to learn about that group of insects.
Mesquites eventually die. The stumps can remain for years. A jackrabbit has left signs of his visits but why did he want to hang out next to a mesquite stump?
Tour groups love to go to the pond. Second graders from St. John's Elementary in Odessa went on to the dock for a few minutes fascinated with the gambusia swimming around in the water.
Gambusia affinis is the Latin name for mosquito fish. Native to the southeastern United States, they have been introduced for mosquito control. The gambusia's mouth is located at the top of its face, so it can suck down the wigglers (larval mosquitoes in the water). We do not have mosquitoes at Sibley, unless they blow in from rainwater pools after a big rain.
In the foreground is the early spring annual alley mustard that has already died. The darker spots are strange galls on the mustard. Beyond are the cattails of the pond, a large cottonwood and other trees.
Grackles hang out at the pond all day, and are easily seen. This male great-tailed grackle flew up to announce to the other birds that photographer Richard Galle was present.
A female great-tailed grackle also appeared, and peered down, looking for food.
Just what did she find is it a gambusia? Grackles are great hunters and will eat bird eggs and bird babies if given a chance. They also eat seeds, nuts, and bugs of many species.
The tree grove at the west end of the pond is a welcome sight on a hot day the ground temperature in the open can reach 150, while in the shade, it will be in the 80s.
Large shrubs known as seepwillows grow south of the tree grove west of the pond. Their straight stems made great arrows for the Indians. Seepwillows moved into Midland County (from the south) in the rainy 1980s, and are now found at playas and in draws where water stands after a heavy rain.
Seepwillow leaves have a strongly serrated edge. Two species of true willow are also at the pond, and one of those also has serrated leaves, but not as serrated as seepwillow.
In the early morning orb weaver spiders will spin a web across the trail at the west end of the pond.
At the east end of the pond the trail was lined with Texas Purple thistle.
On the golf course just north of the pond, an American coot nibbled on the grass when no golfers were near.
Trompillo grows along the fence between the pond and the golf course. Soon it will have green berries (used to make asadero cheese). The berries split milk into curds and whey.
A pyrrhuloxia sat in the shade of one of the trees it is known to some as the desert cardinal, but it only has red on its chest and under its wings and has a yellow bill.
At the east end pond is a huge cottonwood with a bat house in it. It is at the head of a grove of trees watered every day.
Looking close at the ground, a person can see the speckled bumpiness left by a brief heavy rain.
A person would think a ladderbacked woodpecker would have been in one of the larger trees, but this one stayed in the mesquite.
Along the trail are large bushes with blue-gray bark. Lote is an old name for it, but blackbrush is a more recent common name.
A closeup of the branch of the lote shows its bluish-silver bark.
Lote blooms in May. The ovary remains until April, when a blue-black berry finally forms.
In the pasture a mesquite will sometimes have cory ephedra under it. Sprinkled among the ephedra are the white and green leaves of desert holly.
Desert holly has pink daisy blossom for a few hours in the morning, and by noon, the blossom has turned to fluffy seed.
Ephedra torreyi is a third species of ephedra (popotillo and Mormon tea are other common names of all the species). Ephedra torreyii and ephedra coryii both have dry cones, but ephedra antisyphillitica has fleshy red cones.
Cory ephedra lines the trail, providing an evergreen ground cover it would be wonderful if horticulturalists could learn how to easily propagate it for a drought adaptive ground cover!
We planted an agarita along the trail a holly like shrub that bears bright red berries in April.
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