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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.

Where Have All the (Wild) Flowers Gone?

Prairie Notes #184
April 1, 2022

01) Where Have All the (Wild) Flowers Gone?
02) Field Report - March
03) New Species - March
04) New Trails Project Report
05) PrairieSky / StarParty Report
06) Cowtown Clean-Up @ Tandy Hills
07) Trout Lily Walk Report
08) A Compelling Donation Story
09) Prairie Proverb - Pete Seeger

 

01) Where Have All the (Wild) Flowers Gone

 

I have been keeping track of wildflower bloom dates at Tandy Hills for almost 20 years. In every one of those years, several of the major wildflower species were in bloom by late March. But, 2022 is different. As of March 30, 2022, only one (1) species was blooming, despite a full inch of rain on March 21.

 

Weather patterns are the obvious culprit but not always a reliable gauge. We have had some very dry winters, for example, that did not affect bloom times. By now, the meadows along View Street and on Broadcast Hill, have at least a few blooms of, Purple Paintbrush and other species. This year, Narrowleaf Puccoon is the ONLY bloomer and they are few.

 

There are signs, however, that wildflowers are on the way. Healthy clumps of Engelamm Sage dot the prairie as do plenty of Purple Indian Paintbrush and Flax sprouts. But they are way later than usual. Fortunately, we had 1.5" of rain on the morning of March 30 that will help.

 

I asked, Suzanne Tuttle, former Director of the Fort Worth Nature Center, for her take on this unusually late wildflower season and she wrote:

 

"My opinion is that the combination of drought and wildly fluctuating temperatures has blocked the usual signals plants rely on to determine when to break dormancy. Some plants key in on temperature and some on day length to “decide” when to start their annual cycle. Drought is an overlying confounding factor."

 

Despite a lack of wildflowers, I have observed a good number of insects this spring. I wondered how they can survive with so few wildflowers so I asked, Sam Kieschnick, Texas Parks & Wildlife Urban Biologist, who shared these thoughts:

 

"What do the bugs do?  I think they just move around a lot more -- seeking out the plants that are flowering or the areas that do have flowers.  In our yard, the cherry laurels are blooming like mad, and the blooms are fairly high off the ground.  Maybe some of the pollinators shift their focus.  Redbuds and the plums have been blooming in areas lately too. Some pollinators do go after those non-native winter weeds like dandelion, henbit, speed well, redstem fillaree, and many others. Overall, it is indeed still a mystery to me how nature finds a way to survive and persist, despite lots of challenges."

 

While the late bloom date is a concerning mystery, I feel confident the wildflowers will go into overdrive in the next few days and weeks. One last check just before press time revealed a few barely blooming Purple Paintbrush, a small stand of Fringed Blue Star and a patch of Cloth of Gold. More on this perplexing mystery later. Hope springs eternal!

 

 

DY

 

 


March 28, 2022, Tandy Hills

 


March 28, 2020

 


March 31, 2022, Broadcast Hill

 


March 31, 2020

 

It's so dry out there some wildlife are eating Prckly Pear Cactus.

 

An inch of rain in mid-March and another 1.5" on March 30th will surely get things popping.
 

02) Field Report - March

 

Even in an off month for wildflowers, there is always someting to see at Tandy Hills, be it the new trails, the birds and bugs or the magnificant sunsets. March was pretty good and April is bound to be better. 

 


All the prairie color was in the sky on March 1.

 


An uncommon insect here, Goatweed Leafwing butterflies are nicely camouflaged. They are bright orange-red inside wings.

 


Prairie Indian Plantain (Arnoglossum plantagineum) is a striking and prolifc presence on the early spring prairie.

 


A Monarch butterfly was a surprising sight on March 5.

 


Cornell Labs, Merlin Bird ID app helped me identify a rare visit by a Barred Owl. This is a great tool for the hearing impaired, like me.

 


The giant Oak trees in the bottomland looking magnificant on a warm spring evening.

 


Narrowleaf Puccoon, was the ONLY major wildflower blooming on March 31.

 

I saw this stunning rainbow coming when the Sun popped out on March 21 and waited in the rain for it to fill in all the colors.

 

 

 

03) New Species - March

 

In one of those quirks of iNaturalist, the March species count went slightly down despite several new species recorded. Sometimes an observation is temporarily counted as a new species until experts agree that it is not new. Anyway, we did have the following new species recorded bringing the March total to, 1651.

 


Twice-stabbed Lady Beetle (Chilocorus stigma) photo by Sam Kieschnick
 

Powdered Ruffle LIchen (Parmotrema hypotropum) photo by Don Young

 


Great Purple Hairstreak, photo by Don Young

 


Great Purple Hairstreak, other side

 


Trogomorpha Wasp (Trogomorpha  arrogans) photo by Sam Kieschnick

 

04) Trails Project Report

 

A spiffy new trail re-route was completed in early March. It is on the far east side and connects two other trails that skirt around Barbara's Button Hill. I urge you to check it out.

 

 

 

 

05) Prairie Sky / Star Party Report

 

The inaugural star party of 2022 drew a small number of folks who braved an unexpected, late blast of winter chill. Expect better star-gazing weather next time. Here's John McCrea, of Fort Worth Astronomical Society with a preview of what you will see on April 9th.

For our April star party, we will have our familiar spring constellations. The most popular can be seen in the night sky from about late March to late June. Although there are about fifteen springtime constellations visible in the Northern Hemisphere, seven prominent constellations stand out and are generally associated with springtime. These include Ursa Major, Boötes, Cancer, Leo, Coma Berenices, Virgo, and Hydra. 

 

It's time to say farewell to our old friend Pleiades.  It will still be visible as well as Orion, Canis Major and Minor, but remember these stars set 4 minutes earlier each day and the sun sets later, so they will be gone very soon.  M44 in Cancer the crab will be readily visible on the ecliptic.

 

The sun will set @ 7:53 PM on the April 9th and we will have a first quarter moon that will be in the Constellation Canis Major.  The one planet visible will be Uranus, but only at dusk.

 

 

 

 

06) Cowtown Clean-Up @ Tandy HIlls

 

A group of 50 students from the Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences High School (T.A.B.S., part of FWISD), descended on Tandy Hills on March 26 to clean up a huge amount of trash. This effort was part of the annual, Cowtown Clean-Up. The group was led by, Erin Blythe, Master of Art Education and Adjunct Professor at TCC.

 

Thanks a mil, you guys! Well done!

 

 

 

07) Trout Lily Walk Report

 

Nearly 40 Trout Lily fans showed for the Walk with Sam Kieschnick on March 6. It was not the best year for the mystical little wildflower but we found enough to make it worthwhile. Thank you Sam K for an educational and entertaining walk. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

08) A Compelling Donation Story

 

There are lots of good reasons to become a Friend of Tandy Hills. This recent one was kind of special:

 

“My husband grew up very near the Tandy Hills Natural Area many years ago. During our marriage, we chased wild flowers many times there. We think natural areas are essential for restoring human spirits. I called and spoke to you a few weeks ago about scattering my husband's ashes. We are waiting for the right day to do that. Meanwhile, I went back on the website yesterday to remind myself of the location and read about Becoming a Friend. Today, I sent a $100 donation via Paypal, in memory of my husband and to express my gratitude.”

 

Here's another good reason to support Friends of Tandy Hills;

 

 

09) Prairie Proverb - Pete Seeger

 

Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time passing

Where have all the flowers gone?

Long time ago

Where have all the flowers gone?

Young girls picked them, every one

When will they ever learn?

When will they ever learn?

 

- Pete Seeger, from his 1955 folk song, one of the most widely recorded songs of all time.

 

Prairie Notes© is the official newsletter of, Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. All content by Don Young except where otherwise noted.