Nature Trail Tour - May, 2009
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Dr. Paul Mangum of Midland College, who is also a member of the 2009 class of the Llano Estacado Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists, walked the trail in mid-May. Mary Lambeth also hiked the trail, the last weekend of April. She is also a Texas Master Naturalist, associated with the Hill Country group in Junction, but often volunteering here in Midland. 2009 started out quite dry, but spring did bring a few wildflowers. Mary photographed some of the flowers in Sibley’s xeriscape garden, too.
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Germander is a perennial flower that blooms in April and May in most years. The blossom is asymmetrical – one of few such flowers.
Dr. Mangum followed a group of Aphanogaster ants carrying a moth larva along the ground. They carried it in an almost straight line back to their nest, clambering over any object in the way. The numbers of ants working together varied – here, 4 are at work.
A closeup shows the ants biting the caterpillar and lifting it.
When an obstacle was reached, a fifth joined them. Notice the abdomen of the ants… each individual has a differing amount of red near where it joins the gaster. Is there significance to the differing coloration?
It took nine ants to finally lift the caterpillar over the twig.
Back out in the open, three ants departed.
The same six ants hurried down the trail, rapidly moving the caterpillar.
When ants reached the hole, two more ants departed, as the caterpillar was carried into the darkness.
Comanche prickly pear is endemic to the Llano Estacado. It rarely will grow tall, and it is always red.
Comanche Prickly Pear has white thorns, which makes it disappear against the tawny grasses of the region (except when it is in bloom.)
Sometimes the petals of the flower of the Comanche Pear do not fully open.
Green desert holly leaves are hard to see next to the old white leaves of the previous years.
Desert holly seeds are probably sterile, for they form within hours of the bloom. The “seeds” disperse quickly, blowing along the ground by late afternoon.
Yucca angustifolia in bud shows very little branching to the bloom panicle.
At the pond, a Cyperus sedge was in bloom.
The three leaf sumac at the pond had flower buds.
Hog potato starts blooming in April, and if it gets moisture, will bloom until frost.
Baby white aster has tiny white blossoms in April, followed by seedheads bigger than the blooms.
Tansy aster seed heads are similar, but much larger.
Lazy daisy blooms from April until frost, if there is moisture, but the blossom does not open until noon or later.
Dr. Mangum became fascinated with the germander blossoms. Notice the stamens are fully exerted.
On this plant, the stamens were not fully exerted. Is there a certain time of day the stamens are extended? How long do they stay extended? Notice the style has forks into two filaments.
Mesquites quickly form beans after blooming. Often there will be green beans and blooms on a plant.
Mesquite in full bloom have hundreds of flowers, and at times, every flower is covered with solitary bees and other pollinators, but Sibley staff have not determined any peak times for the insects.
Desert holly prefers to grow under mesquite.
Pepperweed blooms in April, and the annual has gone to seed by May.
Alley Mustard turns white by May. It blooms as early as February. The perennial blueweed can be seen through the annuals gone to seed.
To detect patterns in the jungle of weedy growth is a challenge!
Purple nightshade begins to bloom in April.
This species of robberfly mimics a wasp. Note the bright green eyes!
Seeds are constantly blowing along the ground – any time there is a breeze, a seed is moving.
Spiny yellow aster will begin to bloom in March.
Tansy aster will begin to bloom in April.
Tasajillo berries will remain on the plant into May, if no bird finds them.
Tumbleweed germinates when the soil gets warm in early May, provided there has been a little bit of rain, or if the ground remains moist from the winter.
Yucca angustifolia in bloom has short branches to the bloom stalk.
The buds on the yucca angustifolia are widely separated.
Yucca constricta has longer branches to the bloom stalk.
Ms. Lambeth found lantana and columbine in bloom in the Reid native plant garden. Usually the columbine is done by the time the lantana starts.
Do you see the cottontail rabbit?
Crazy ants (campanotus) run quickly and often have a large depression with a small entrance hole. This midsize ant species are uncommon at Sibley.
Ms. Lambeth noticed the dried tumbleweed and desert holly detritus, too.
Cottonrats often dig a hole under the underground crown of a mesquite, so predators such as badgers and coyotes have a harder time digging them out of the ground.
Ms. Lambeth caught sunflare on her camera lens as she photographed a foot trail early in the morning.
In early April the mesquite leaves froze, but only in a 5 foot deep layer. Above the 5 foot layer, the leaves were not hurt. By May 1, new leaves were beginning to grow where they had been frozen.
Sibley holds two plant sales a year, during the first weekends of April and May. Plants are often available other times of the year, as Sibley volunteers and staff are often propagating new plants for sale in the future.
The grass remains tawny in the spring unless several inches of rain fall. Grass fires are a constant threat in the spring, for the fall rains often leave dense stands of grass.
The wind will blow the finer sand particles away, leaving a “hardpan,” especially along the foot paths where people will walk. It makes for easy walking for a harvester ant!
Huisache daisy finishes its bloom by mid-May. Notice that one of the blossoms has a double head (of the disc flowers in the center).
Lantana is a great attractant of butterflies.
People have to watch where they walk – thousands of thorns await the unwary.
Several stages of mesquite blossoms are highlighted against the old white leaves of a dead yucca.
Does the yellow coloration indicate that the mesquite blossoms have been pollinated?
New growth on the redbud in the Reid garden has a waxy shiny appearance.
Pink evening primrose has an incredible design in its blossoms – all to better draw bees to the pollen on the anthers in the center of the blossom.
Pink evening primrose will bloom most of May.
The cattails at the pond are not completely green until June.
Rabbit tobacco is a short-lived perennial that blooms in the spring.
Rabbit’s foot grass is not native, and prefers wet soil near the pond.
Saltbushes will begin to bloom in May.
Tasajillo rarely is taller than three feet, but Ms. Lambeth found a six foot tall specimen inside a mesquite clump.
Sleepy daisy opens its flowers about 11 in the morning. The yucca may funnel a little extra moisture to the sleepy daisy roots.
Tasajillo will have some living growth and berries on stems that look dead.
The trail west of the pond is a pleasant place to be as the temperatures mount in the hot May afternoons.
Rough verbena is a long lived perennial for xeriscape gardens, bringing butterflies to observe.
Wine cup blooms in late April and May, and into June with sufficient moisture.
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