A Walk in Fern Bluff Park
February 24, 2001

Note: Additional Walks in the Park may be accessed by clicking on an archive date below:

Archives of previous walks in the park: 12 May 2007 05 May 2007; 28 April 2007, 21 April 2007, 14 April 2007,  1 April 2007 Easter Egg Hunt; 24 March 2007,  17 March 2007; Nov. 03, 2001; April 04, 2001; March 25, 15, 10-11, 04, 2001; February 2418, 10, 2001

foundation, as termites will find the mulch enticing as well. Even though much of these chips have been derived from cedar, which contains resins that repel termites, those resins are leached out over time. It is not unusual to find termites infesting cedar, treated lumber in contact with the soil, and even in creosote-impregnated railroad ties. A good rule of thumb is to never place any wood or wood product in direct contact with the soil, as you may inadvertently create conditions attractive to termites.

from the hand of fate many times, but it still stands. This photo shows one or two wooden steps that have been nailed to the tree to facilitate ingress to a makeshift tree house. If this tree could talk, more than likely it would not complain about the little ones who climb into its leafy bowers. Some, myself included, would propose that trees are made for just this purpose. As long as we take steps to insure that this tree is protected from undue stress, it will almost certainly live for another several hundred years. Not far from this tree is the entrance to a cave. There are several caves in this

In the park, all of the wild flowers reported last week are still blooming. One or two other species have also made their 2001 debut including this Verbena. Several different species of Verbena are found in Texas, but one grouping has features so similar to one another that they are difficult to differentiate using only the naked eye. Within this particular group, in order to make a positive identification one would have to dissect the flower's ovary and examine it microscopically. The specimen in the photo is a good example. It is probably Prairie Verbena (Verbena bipinnatifida). Verbena comprises one of seven genera of the Vervain Family (Verbenaceae) commonly found in Texas, and is by far the largest with at least 10 species. The flowers in most of these species have 5 petals, joined with slightly unequal lobes, 4 stamens of unequal length, and a 4-lobed ovary.

The word tepal is a collective term that includes both petals and sepals, and is used when they cannot be readily differentiated within the perianth of the flower. The expression was coined by Augustin-Pierre de Candolle, a Swiss botanist (1778-1841). In the "typical" flower, one would normally draw a clear distinction between the calyx and the corolla. Calyx is derived from the Greek and means "husk", so this part of the perianth would normally be limited to the sepals. Corolla is of Latin derivation and means "little garland", so this part would normally focus on the flower's colorful petals.

The succulent plant in the above photo appears to be a juvenile form of Stonecrop, of the Orpine Family (Crassulaceae).

Buds are getting ready to burst forth with fresh, green leaves throughout the park. The buds in the photo at upper right are from a particularly stout and majestic Oak tree in the park. In coming weeks we will continue to photograph this twig as its leaves develop to learn more about the species of Oak represented by this tree. 

For those who have this clover in their lawns, here is a tip: fertilize regularly (e.g., on every major holiday) with a mild, non-burning fertilizer (formulated in the range of 8-8-8 to 12-12-12, if possible, favoring the lower numbers during periods of high temperatures). Water the fertilizer in well after each application. This will encourage the growth of your already established lawn grass, and eventually crowd out the clover. If you follow this approach, it should not be necessary to use herbicides to treat these "weeds" in your yard, and you will have a beautiful lawn that will receive favorable reviews from all your neighbors.

The clovers are members of the Legume Family (Fabaceae). The White Clover (Trifolium repens) in the photos at left and below is native to Europe, but now has been widely introduced throughout the United States. It is valued highly as a forage for livestock and, simultaneously, is despised by homeowners as a noxious weed. The flowers are an early source of pollen and nectar for bees. 

Additional comments on the above wild flowers will be added in the coming week as time permits. For those who have written words of encouragement for the material provided on this page, thanks... It is good for me to spend this time communing with nature in the park, so this exercise benefits me more than anyone else. If you note any errors in the identifications or definitions given, please contact me at once.

















Update on the new soccer field: Remember the huge pile of limbs? Gone. All that is left is this small pile of chips. The Round Rock Independent School District leased a chipper at $300 a day and quickly cut the limbs and trees down to size (I had reported earlier, mistakenly, that this had been done by the Fern Bluff M.U.D.). Check with Charlene Lehman before doing so, but it is my understanding that these chips are available for mulching your landscaping at no cost. If you decide to use them, don't mulch too deeply, and don't place the mulch directly against your

But the rocks are still there. Note, however, that the tree stumps have been cut down to the surface of the ground. Again, courtesy of Fern Bluff M.U.D. It will be interesting to see how this landscape is made more hospitable over the next few months. Tables are scheduled to be installed in this area at some point in the future.

Not far from this location is a huge live oak tree who, judging from its girth, is several hundred years old. This tree has obviously suffered injury

general area. The entrances to all known caves near the park have been sealed to prevent unsupervised explorations, but it is possible that undiscovered caves whose entrances have not been properly sealed still exist here.

Even supervised exploration of a cave can result in tragedy, as experienced cavers know. Parents would be well advised to tell their children to never attempt to explore an open cave, and to report possible cave entrances to the proper authorities.

Another flower found in the park today is commonly known as False Garlic or Crow Poison (Nothoscordum bivalve).  This flower grows from a bulb and looks much like the wild onion, but has fewer and larger flowers on long stems and, perhaps most importantly, lacks the onion odor. In its place is a faint, but delectable fragrance that most cannot discern from much of a distance. To experience this flower's bouquet you will have to place your nose as close to the blossom as possible, then coax the fragrance out by fanning the air gently with a cupped hand. Don't be fooled by the odor of onions, as there were members of the onion family nearby and an onion odor was very strong. Both plants are attracted to the same ecosystems and often coexist, and this has probably been a factor in the frequent misidentifications that led to one of its common names.

All the leaves of this plant are at the base of the stem. They are about 1/8th inch wide, and often grow to be as long or longer than the flower scapes. The white flowers have 6 tepals with a green to brown stripe running longitudinally mid-tepal from one end to the other. That stripe can be seen in the image below:


In the case of N. bivalve, as with many other flowers, the distinction between sepals and petals has been lost by the combination of the two into a single structure.

One diminutive but bright yellow flower was observed in the park today. It is shown at left and below. It appears to be a species of Selenia, of the Mustard Family (Brassicaceae). Unfortunately, little has been published on this flower, probably because it is so small. My guess is that it is either the Cloth-Of-Gold (Lesquerella gracilis), or Texas Selenia (Selenia dissecta). Perhaps as more specimens present themselves in the park (both species bloom as late as May or early June) its identity will become more obvious.

In the twig pictured above and at left, a corky wing on each side is a conspicuous feature. Three tree species commonly found in Texas exhibit this characteristic. One of these, the American Sweetgum, is a member of the Witch Hazel Family (Hamamelidaceae), and two are Elms (Ulmaceae). As with the Oak buds above, we will continue to photograph this twig in coming weeks to follow the unfolding of its buds into leaves, and learn more about the species of tree involved.

Among the many park visitors today were two young gentlemen, who are the subjects of the photos below. The arborist in the picture is Hunter Hinesly, and his friend, in the photo at left, is Kavin Cho. Both were enjoying the good weather and the joys attendant to being a scout and explorer in nature's wilderness... Kavin is holding a card with the domain name of this website on it so he would be sure to see his photo when it was published. No doubt he would have plenty to say to me next week if this photo did not make it to the internet. Also, it is my understanding that Hunter's mother, Melanie, recently celebrated a birthday. A belated Happy Birthday, Melanie...

Archives of previous walks in the park: 12 May 2007 05 May 2007; 28 April 2007, 21 April 2007, 14 April 2007,  1 April 2007 Easter Egg Hunt; 24 March 2007,  17 March 2007; Nov. 03, 2001; April 04, 2001; March 25, 15, 10-11, 04, 2001; February 2418, 10, 2001