Habitats of the Llano Estacado
Photoessay – Shinoak-Covered Sanddunes (July, 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.
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Related Photoessays: April | June | August | September | October | Early November | Mid-November | Early December
A baby southern prairie lizard emerged in July.
Sibley staff is confused about this grass. Is this red lovegrass?
Or is this?
Papsalum grasses are usually found in moist locations, but a species has adapted to dune life.
Harvester ants clear a large area around their hole. (Is this in protection from horned lizards?)
A large mushroom “exploded” after a few days.
Puffball mushrooms can be softball sized.
This mushroom was quite shaggy.
Another mushroom had a glossy gray skin.
The species that “exploded” was found in a group of three, pre-exploding.
Rayed palafoxia is limited to loose sand dune soils.
When rayed palafoxia is just beginning to bloom, less rayflowers are visible.
Sand innocence (Hedyotis) is a delicate annual. Notice the fuzzy aspect to the petals.
Snake herb is more common in tighter soils. It is very astringent and was once placed on snakebites to “draw out” the poison.
Notice the sand grains on the leaf of this spurge. Would the sunlight, when passing through the clear quartz crystals magnify the light, and cause burns on the leaf underneath?
Vinegaroons are normally found in rocky soil. Nathan found this at a neighbor’s house, but not near rocky soil. This was a big surprise for the Sibley staff to learn that vinegaroons can be found in Dawson County!
A white horsemint bloomed when it was only 2 inches tall, in response to rapidly drying soils and 100 degree F days.
Nathan is fascinated with amaranths. This leaf was mutated.
This individual had abnormally large leaves.
All farmers look to the sky, and watch the clouds. Rain means a profit, hail mean disaster, drought means disaster.
Devil’s claw is a common weed in cotton fields. Its blooms are pretty, but the plant is sticky with a moisture that smells like cat urine. (But the seeds are tasty treats to a farmer in the field.)
The buds reveal the hairy structure that exudes the stickly liquid on the devil’s claw.
A horned lizard’s face is downright gnarly!
Horny toads can be quite beautiful with bright colors.
Rayless palafox is close kin to the rayed palafox above, but it will grow in tighter soils. It is rare to find both species on the same small piece of property.
Sunsets are glorious on the Llano Estacado!
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