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September Grass

Prairie Notes:
September 23, 2007

Happy Autumn Equinox!

  1. *IMPORTANT: Public Meeting September 26
  2. September Grass: Tandy Hills Nature Area Report
  3. Seismic Testing Halted
  4. New York Avenue Blackland Prairie Report
  5. Connemara Conservancy Fall Newsletter
  6. Native Prairies Association of Texas

(1) IMPORTANT: Public Meeting September 26
*The City of Fort Worth Parks Department will host the first of at least two public meetings for review of the Tandy Hills Nature Area Environmental Master Plan at 7 pm on September 26 at the Sycamore Community Center, 2525 E. Rosedale St. During the meeting, citizens will have the opportunity to offer their input on the plan. For more information, call 817-871-5391.

This is your chance to make suggestions for protecting and restoring this long ignored resource. An environmental survey consultant firm, hired by the city of Fort Worth, has been studying the park for several months to identify park needs. Your input is vital.

(2) September Grass: Tandy Hills Nature Area Report
Prairie landscapes seem to be an acquired taste for some people. Must be the ape in us. Evolutionists report that our progenitors spent much of their lives in trees. It may be instinctual that we are drawn to big trees. The Trinity Trees, for example, have certainly inspired a widespread emotional response in our community, and rightly so.

But for my money, prairies are the place to be in north central Texas. Especially, in September. Especially, THIS September with grass as high as an elephant's eye. Grass is to a prairie what Bur Oak is to Trinity Trees: The dominant native species. Tandy Hills Nature Area is blessed with the best stands of native grasses in the Fort Worth city limits. (Note the emphasis on native grasses and not foreign invaders, such as Johnsongrass, Sorghum halepense.) Like most other plant species in this unusually wet year, the grasses are taller and more widespread than usual, reaching and sometimes exceeding their maximum average heights.

The most striking species visible from the highway is the Little Bluestem, Andropogon scoparius. You may have noticed patches of the grey/green/purple, misty-looking grass along the roadside this time of year. They appear almost fog-like, waving in the breeze. (I've observed that butterflies and birds, especially hummingbirds, are fond of the pollen.)

Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardi, is taller and thicker than it's little brother and is more robust and widespread than I have ever seen it at THNA, reaching heights of 8 feet and still growing. (You can view an especially nice patch, near the road, on the east end of View Street.) Big Bluestem is nicknamed, Turkey Foot, in reference to the tri-shaped, copper colored seed heads it produces.

Indian Grass, Sorghastrum nutans, is the other tall grass at THNA and it's just now starting to unfold its distinctive, golden plumes. It is slightly less prevalent than Bluestem, but very striking and extending it's range this year. As autumn progresses and cooler temps prevail, the seeds of these grasses disperse to the wind but leave behind their flowing tresses to carpet the limestone hills until springs return.

Grasses are the main event of the autumn prairie but they have some colorful company. Purple and prickly, Eryngo, Eryngium Leavenworthii, resemble psychedelic candelabras; Azure-hued, Giant Blue Sage, Salvia azurea is now in bloom; and the cheerful, Maximilian Sunflowers, Helianthus Maximiliani, are in full, Indian Summer regalia. Tandy Hills is a truly remarkable place in September.

Come to the meadow and lie down in September grass. With a little effort you can imagine that you are in the back of beyond. I'm told it reverses the aging process - at least on the inside.

(3) Seismic Testing Halted
Back in mid August, Chesapeake Energy displayed their lack of respect for the surface of Tandy Hills Nature Area by planning to do destructive seismic testing inside the park. They are only interested in the subsurface minerals, aka: natural gas. With the assistance of Fort Worth City Council Rep., Kathleen Hicks, and an outcry from Friends of THNA, Chesapeake decided to forego the testing.

Please take a moment to send your gratitude to Kathleen:
kathleen.hicks@sbcglobal.net

Note to Chesapeake Energy:
City Code 2415: Vehicles of ALL types must be limited to roads and parking areas.

No driving off roadway. Foot traffic ONLY! No motorized vehicles.

(4) New York Avenue Blackland Prairie Report:
Jan Miller waxes eloquent about Arlington's blackland prairie in the September issue of the Arlington Conservation Council newsletter:
http://www.arlingtonconservationcouncil.org/newsletters.html

(5) Connemara Conservancy Fall Newsletter
http://www.connemaraconservancy.org/

(6) Native Prairies Association of Texas Newsletter
http://www.texasprairie.org/