David Bamberger writes:
Margaret began this blog at the beginning of 2008 when she no longer had the energy to participate in our ranch programs. It was her way of staying connected to the natural world here on Selah as well as continuing to educate others. At the beginning she said to me, “David, I am now the CEO of Selah!” “Wait a minute,” I said, “We don’t need any more managers.” “Forget the business world term,” she said, “I’m the CHIEF ENVIRONMENTAL OBSERVER!” And what an observer she was, noting the tiniest of things whether it was an insect, flower or fossil.
I’ve preached to the staff that we should not initiate anything that we are unable to sustain. So, a lot of discussion took place over how we could continue Margaret’s blog. Everyone here, as well as some of our volunteers, has agreed to participate.
When I arrived in Texas 58 years ago, I was most impressed by the flowering trees. Here on Selah, Margaret and I so enjoyed the springtime, driving the Jeep around the ranch looking for new discoveries. We found and recorded many.
Due to the events here we missed quite a few this spring – namely, the Mexican Plum (Prunus mexicana) which very dependably displays a fine petaled white flower very early in the spring; the Prairie Crab Apple (Pyrus ioensis) ours has a flower that is mostly white with a touch of pink; the Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana), which I introduced here 30 years ago, puts on a spectacular show, the whole tree is covered with white. Those of us here at the ranch saw all three of these, but failed to photograph them. We did manage to see and photograph the following.
Huisache (Acacia smallii) pronounced “wee satch” has this beautiful yellow, somewhat ball-shaped flower. The tree is more common south of here and there are only two of this species discovered on the ranch. In reading about it for this posting, I was impressed by the many listed uses of the Huisache. From Texas Trees by Paul Cox and Patty Leslie: “The pods were formerly made into ink, the juice was used as a glue for mending pottery and the bark for drying skins. Various parts of the tree have local medicinal value. Decoctions from the green fruit serve as an astringent and the roots were used as a treatment for tuberculosis. Wound dressings were made from the crushed leaves and the flowers were used as an infusion for indigestion and as an ointment for curing headaches.” Isn’t this interesting? I don’t know if you could find this plant in a nursery or not. One thing about it is that it has sharp spiny twigs which can scratch you pretty bad.
Texas Madrone (Arubtus xalapensis) –
This is among my very favorite trees! Some refer to it as the Naked Indian because of its very smooth bark. I tell visitors “it’s evergreen, it flowers, it fruits and it sheds it bark from red to white.” Jim Rhoades, our tree Aggie, adds that it’s a self-pruning tree. New growth wraps around dead limbs. It was 40 years ago when I first saw a Madrone, but as we began clearing cedar, many others, mostly small, were discovered. These we protected from deer and livestock by putting a sturdy corral (cage) around them. I don’t have an accurate count but I’d estimate that we have 150. They are very difficult to transplant, my success rate being less than 50 percent. Few plant nurseries have them as they are somewhat difficult to propagate, but Medina Garden Nursery in Medina, Texas has them available. You can call Ernesto at 830-589-2771.
Texas Redbud (Cercis canadenis var. texensis) –
Talk about prolific color! We have places here on the ranch where 10 or more of these grow close together in motts or groups. The red flowers appear before the leaves and I have cut branches at this stage to decorate the dinner table. They last a surprisingly long time. You can’t go wrong using the Redbud in your landscaping. They are fast growing and the buds can be eaten in salads and would surely make the salad attractive! I’ve never tried this, but if you do, let me know if you liked it.
Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundi flora) –
There were no Mountain Laurel growing on the ranch when I arrived here 40 years ago, even though they were native. I have been criticized for introducing them. If land is overgrazed, this is a plant that can be invasive because it likes the limestone soils of the hill country and deer, goats and other livestock don’t care for it. Although, it can be pruned to form a nice, classic tree it is most often a shrub or multi-trunked small tree. The violet colored flowers are quite fragrant, but my observation is that they don’t last very long. Since it is an evergreen, it’s a nice complement to the landscape. The fruit pods contain shiny red and very hard seeds and are considered poisonous causing nausea, confusion and even death.
Photography ©2009 Colleen Gardner. All rights reserved.