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Prairie Notes are monthly photo/journal observations from Tandy Hills Natural Area by Founder/Director, Don Young. They include field reports, flora and fauna sightings, and more, mixed with a scoop of dry humor and a bit of philosophy. They are available free to all who get on the FOTHNA email list.

August Malaise

Prairie Notes:
September 1, 2010

1) August Malaise
2) Urgent Action Alert!
3) Flower of the Moment: Wand Milkweed
4) Wildlife Report
5) Monster Bash
6) God & Lawn Care
7) Adventures in Green Marketing
8) Indian Summer Notebook
9) FOTHNA website update
10) Wise Words

1) August Malaise
The month of August seems to bring out malaise in people and prairies. Those 31 days lingered on the 2010 calendar longer than they had a right to. At least the days are shorter now and we have had a few rain showers scattered throughout the month. Not enough to save the late summer bloomers like, Gayfeather and Maximilian Sunflower but enough to keep the blast furnace that was August, tolerable.

As usual, Tandy Hills Natural Area is far more than tolerable. Even in deep August I'm constantly amazed by the diversity, adaptability and sheer beauty of of our urban oasis. See photos below. But first...

2) Urgent Action Alert!
When confronted with seemingly inexplicable phenomena scientists like to remind us that, "there is a logical explanation for everything." But not even, Stephen Hawking, can explain a recent budget proposal by the City of Fort Worth to combine the Parks Department. with... the Library Department...???

If the city prevails, the head librarian would be in charge of 254 parks covering more than 11,000 acres including Tandy Hills, the Botanic Garden, the Nature Center, the Dog Park, Trinity Park and Log Cabin Village plus 19 community centers and 5 golf courses. Oh yeah, and still oversee 15 libraries. The Parks Director position would be eliminated and the Department would no longer report directly to the City Manager. Such a proposal defies common sense much less scientific logic.

If you agree that this is a foolish and irrational proposal that can harm THNA and other parks, please contact the mayor and city council today. (Please "cc" me when you do.)

Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area strongly disapprove of this proposal. We join with other "friends" groups and organizations around the city in urging the City Manager to find other means of balancing the budget.

3) Flower of the Moment: Wand Milkweed
Tandy Hills is home to three types of Milkweed. Antelope Horns, and Green Milkweed are the most common and bloom in late spring or early summer. Much more uncommon is, Wand Milkweed, aka, Green Comet Milkweed, and Short Green Milkweed. The Fall-blooming, Asclepias viridiflora grows to about 2' tall. The nectar of the umbel-shaped flowers attract bumblebees and other long-tongued bees and of course, Monarch butterflies. Ants love it, too. The pods lack the "warts" of other milkweed varieties. It is endangered in several states.

About the Latin name: Asclepias is named after the Greek god of healing, Asklepios. In botanical Latin, Viridiflora means, green-flowered.

Click here to listen to the pronunciation of the Lakota name for Wand Milkweed and learn about Lakota medicinal uses of the plant.

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The enchanting, Wand Milkweed, is uncommon in FW and endangered in several states.

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Wand Milkweed is a bee magnet.

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Wand Milkweed seed pods are smooth, unlike their warty cousins.

4) Wildlife report
-On August 12, I discovered the corpse of an Eastern Screech Owl on the edge of THNA. I asked local bird expert, Tom Stevens, why he thought the magnificent bird had perished. Noting that the bird lacked any sign of trauma and that, owls have few natural predators, he surmised the bird died of either old age, hunger, disease or, perhaps, hit by a car. I would add that all wildlife in north Texas are impacted by the increasingly dirty air from gas drilling operations in the Barnett Shale.

-Remarkably, there have been fox sightings on the southern edge of THNA this month. One eyewitness saw one near View Street about midnight last week.

-Texas Spiny Lizards are having a good year. The many I have seen have all their tails, meaning that, my cat ain't what she used to be.

-Tiger Swallowtails are still drifting across the prairie although in fewer numbers. I finally got one to sit still long enough to take a pic.

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Eastern Screech Owl. Rarely seen but essential link in the chain of life.

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The namesake of the Chinese Year of the Tiger Swallowtail.

5) Monster Bash
It's time again for the annual, Lake Worth Monster Bash. (It's graveyard smash!) The Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge festival to celebrate the mythical monster takes place Saturday, October 2, from 10 am - 3 pm. Grab the kids and get out! Go here to read all about it, if you dare.

6) God and Lawn Care
All you grass-huggers out there, and I know who you are, will enjoy this little dialogue between God and St. Francis about grass and lawn care. The author is apparently anonymous. Don't miss the interesting comments by Lois Robbins at the end.

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7) Adventures in Green Marketing
Longtime Prairie Fest exhibitor, Proforma Green Marketing have a nifty website that offers an amazing array of eco-options for living lighter on Mother Earth. Take a look-see.

8) Here's a few scenes of what Indian Summer 2010 looks like at Tandy Hills:

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A late summer survivor, Snow-on-the-Prairie, can grow quite large like this bewitching 6' "Hydra."

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Pretty but deadly. Poison Ivy succumbs colorfully to the August heat wave.

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Little Bluestem and Purple Coneflower, going different directions, meet halfway.

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The miraculous, Eryngo, foretells Autumn is around the corner

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Various native grasses shimmer and sway in the hot wind of August on Brush Bash Slope.

9) FOTHNA Website Update
The FOTHNA website is undergoing an update that now includes posting of all previous Prairie Notes. Please bear with us as the update continues.

10) Wise words
"The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders."
-Ed Abbey

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