Habitats of the Llano Estacado
Photoessay – Shinoak-Covered Sanddunes (April, 2009)
Nathan Taylor’s family farms cotton west of Lamesa. In 2009 Nathan was 15 years old. He is homeschooled, and before or after lessons, or while he is working on the farm (hoeing or driving the tractor) he explores his homestead. His family’s house sits in the middle of shinoak covered sanddunes. His photography records the changing seasons, and through the year he discovered a number of organisms (both plants and animals) that had not been recorded in western Dawson County before his observations. In November 2009 he was elected Vice-President of the Llano Estacado Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists.
Click on each image to see a larger version; use your browser's "Back" button to return to this page.
Related Photoessays: June | July | August | September | October | Early November | Mid-November | Early December
Sand sagebrush is common in the habitat, and in spring aphids can be found on some individual plants.
Baby white asters begin to bloom in late March and bloom until May with spring rains.
Some black widow adults are able to survive the winter in very protected places.
Box turtles emerge from their winter hibernation in early to mid April.
A buckeye butterfly found the spring blooming spectacle pod tasty. Surprisingly common in April, they probably emerge from their chrysalis with the first 80 degree days.
This orange and black shield bug seems to be the first of its kin to emerge in the spring, and might overwinter as adults in protected places.
Corypantha is the most common cactus in the area.
Its blooms are incredible!
On the chocolate daisy, the red objects laying on the ray flowers are the bifurcate stigmas. The ray flowers are female. The disk flowers are staminate (male).
Hognose snakes dig up their prey (toads) in the spring. They seem to have better success when the soil is moist, which infers that they can “smell” their prey through two feet or more of wet sand.
Coachwhip snakes become active in April.
A scared cottontail freezes near the rosette of a spectacle pod at Nathan’s approach.
Cryptantha minima is a tiny “belly flower” found in sandy soils.
A damselfly a long way from water rested on the nodding bud of a sleepy daisy.
Dayflower is common in the spring after a wet winter.
Sibley staff could not determine the species of this flower, and wondered if it was a mutation of a common plant.
Yellow evening primrose is common in the sandy country.
A white evening primrose was deformed by fasciation caused by a gall. One of the flowers was minature, but the rest were normal sized.
Filaree is a common spring annual, blooming from February until May with enough moisture.
What is the red spot on the side of this Couch’s spadefoot toad?
If this is Evax verna, it is the largest specimen Sibley staff has ever seen. It might be a member of the Guillemna genus (both are amaranths.)
A scorpion stayed out of sight in the leaf litter of the shinoaks.
Horny toads are common on the Taylor land.
A migrating house wren spent some time in Nathan’s greenhouse.
James’ rushpea is never plentiful, and always a joy to discover.
Mating lady bugs ignored an aphid with a barbed exoskeleton.
A pair of mesquite trunks (covered with orange lichen) had grown together.
Puffball mushrooms are common in the shinoak dunes.
This beautiful white mushroom grew out of a branch of the shinoak laying on the ground.
Musk thistle is a recent exotic invader of the farmland in the region.
Nathan noticed the purple bases to the stamens on the spectacle pod.
An orange, black, and white caterpillar meandered along. Sibley staff does not know what this caterpillar will become.
Peppergrass is a common spring annual, and can be used in salads to add a spicy taste.
Peppergrass is just a non-descript weed in the cotton field.
A black and yellow bug emerged in the early spring, too.
Plantain (tallow weed or white man’s footstep) is a common spring annual. It can be a bad allergen when plentiful.
When the blooms of larkspur are pollinated, the stamens turn black.
A young prairie rattler coiled up at Nathan’s approach, and stuck out its purplish tongue.
Puccoon roots provide a wonderful purple dye. These blooms are sterile and do not produce seeds.
Rains exposed a beetle pupa case.
Sleepy daisy is a common perennial that blooms April to November with adequate rains.
A southern prairie lizard climbed all the way up Nathan’s house to a second story window,
And seemed rather proud of it. Notice that its tail has regrown after escaping a predator.
Sow thistle is a common exotic annual found wherever people are.
A sphinx moth came to the window at night.
Spiderwort is a common perennial in sandy soils.
A young spike buck came out of the shinoaks to walk across the front yard.
Several species of spurges can be found in the habitat. Their sap can cause damage to eyes.
Sibley staff is not sure what species of the carrot family this is.
Nor does the Sibley staff know what species of the mustard family this is.
And, the staff does not know this white composite, either!
Verbena pumila is a tiny verbena that is more common in clay soils, but was found in the bottom of a ‘blowout” between shinoak covered dunes.
Vicia exigua (vetch) is uncommon in the habitat. Like many legumes, it adds nitrogen to the soil.
Wallflower is found in sandy soils on the western Llano Estacado, but is rarely found in great numbers.
Wild lettuce leaves can be brewed into a bitter tea that will help a person go to sleep. It is the wild form of garden lettuce, but is native.
Wire lettuce has tiny leaves with blue blossoms, but the blossoms fade to pink.
When the yucca bloom is small, it can be eaten like asparagus (a few people will get a stomach ache).
Yellow flax is common in the dune country.
Some of the yellow flax has a lot of red,
While others only have a hint of red.
By mid-day, flax blossoms detach from the plant and fall to the ground.
Top of Page