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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.

Greetings from Tandy Hills. Wish you were here!

Prairie Notes:
July 1, 2010

Imagine yourself on a lonely beach... far from the madding crowd. Nah, forget that daydream. Not this year anyway.

If you are like me, summer vacation 2010 (so far) is more like a staycation. But with Tandy Hills Natural Area just a few steps from my front door, I can escape to prairie paradise in the time it takes to lace up my hiking boots.

That's right campers, even in summertime the Tandy Hills prairie is a surprisingly enchanting travel destination. Amazing sights are right at your toetips and fingertips. You just have to know where (and how) to look. Best of all, tourist sightings are rare and there's not a tar-ball in sight. Come on in!

Here's a little Tandy Hills "slide-show" from June 2010.

1) Roadrunners are rarely seen in the middle of the big city but Tandy Hills is special. This hungry roadrunner (aka: Paisano) was seen June 2, on the on the main trail at THNA. Photo courtesy of Mr. Durango Jones. Read more about his roadrunner adventure on his blog.

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Roadrunner at THNA. June 2010

2) Every June I go on a quest to find a perfectly shaped Yellow Puff (Neptunia lutea). This years model is a tangled explosion of color and texture. The flowers are reminiscent of Powderpuff, Sensitive Briar and Illinois Bundleflower, all in the pea family and all found at THNA.

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Yellow Puff

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Yellow Puff foliage recoils to the touch, like Sensitive Briar.

3) Indian Plantain (Arnoglossum plantagineum) is a tall, stately but rather drab looking plant. Nor are the flowers particularly attractive at first glance. But on close inspection, they actually have a fanciful, alien-like appearance. Plantain was also an important medicinal plant for Cherokee Indians.

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Indian Plantain

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Indian Plantain

4) Ratany (Krameria lanceolata), also known as, Prairie Sandbur, has one of the most unique colorations of any flower at THNA. The small red-purple flowers also have a very unusual, spicy scent but you'll have to lay flat on the ground to smell them. Normally rather dark in color, this one lit up like stained glass when backlit by the Sun.

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Ratany

5) A month after they bloomed so gloriously, the seed pods of Sensitive Briar (Mimosa latidens) made a striking impression in June. The 3" pods are covered in stiff, prickly hairs.

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Sensitive Briar

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Sensitive Briar

6) White Rosinweed (Sylphium albiflorum) flourishes in hot weather, especially at THNA. The robust, daisy-like flowers are supported by a very stout and sandpapery stalk. The leaves are equally rough to the touch. This majestic example posed picture perfect on a sweltering June afternoon.

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White Rosinweed

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White Rosinweed

7) The billowy lemon-yellow flowers of Fluttermill, also known as, Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) bloomed back in April and May after pollination by large moths and hummingbirds. Now, the distinctive seed pods, or fruits, are ripening into their yellow-red glory. By late Fall, the dried out, papery "wings" will break free of the mother plant and surrender to the wind.

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Fluttermill seed pods

8) On a hot and still evening in June, I chanced to witness a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly delicately floating over the prairie. As I watched quietly, she silently fluttered in place on a Texas Ash leaf and deposited a single, millimeter-size egg. (My book says she will lay 400-500 such eggs.) This photo was taken seconds later.

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Tiger Swallowtail butterfly egg.

Need a vacation but stuck in Fort Worth? Come to Tandy Hills and discover postcard-worthy sights in your own backyard.

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