Thursday, February 28, 2013

Trout Lily

White Trout Lilies, Erythronium albidum
The White Trout Lily can be found throughout most of the central United States to the eastern coastline, and northward to parts of Canada. A member of the Lily Family, Liliaceae, there are many common names for this wildflower: White Trout Lily (or troutlily), Dogtooth violet, White fawnlily, Adder's tongue, or some variation of those words. More often, due to the green speckled torpedo-shaped leaves, the name trout lily is applied. Described formally in 1818 by Nuttall, this specific species has been given a number of sub-specific statuses due to the variations found. While the mottled leaves are a main characteristic, the flower color can vary from the usual white to shades of pink to red.

White Trout Lily flower macro
One of the first wildflowers to bloom in Texas, it is often considered a herald of spring. This native perennial reaches only about 15 cm (6 inches) tall. The White Trout Lily prefers partial to full shade, particularly on moist hillsides of open deciduous woodlands. It takes six to seven years before the seed will produce anything. During that sixth or seventh year, only one leaf will bloom and the second leaf plus flower will not show until the year following. The blooming period lasts for around 2 weeks, and if left undisturbed, can produce large colonies. An abundant colony is often an indicator that the area has never been subjected to the plow or bulldozer.

A small patch of Trout Lilies in the woodlands.
Deer occasionally eat the leaves, but its location and small size prevent major plant damage. Many insects visit this species including the Giant Bee Fly, and less often, butterflies and skippers. It is mainly pollinated by a number of honeybees and bumblebees, both long-tongued and short-tongued, such as Miner bees, Cuckoo bees, and Mason bees. The Trout Lily genus has a specialized, or oligolectic bee, known as the Trout Lily Bee, Andrena erythronii. Already blooming in Texas, and starting to show in other parts of the country, it is always worth looking into to Trout Lily events and walks near your area to see these!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Trout Lily

Blooming White Trout Lily, Erythronium albidum Nutt.
The White Trout Lily is one of the more rare wildflowers. With its long propagation time, specific growth conditions, and early bloom, this flower is celebrated with Trout Lily walks and sightings. To do this flower justice, a longer post with more pictures will follow for Thursday.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

John Bunker Sands Wetlands

John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
 The John Bunker Sands Wetlands includes seasonal emergent wetlands, flooded bottomland hardwood forest, and scrub swamp. A wonderful refuge for wildlife, this area serves another purpose: polishing water. Just under 7.5 km² (1,853 acres) of the wetland is managed as a natural filter. Designed to cleanse water, about 95% sediment, 80% nitrogen, and 65% phosphorous is removed from both treated wastewater and natural water flows that were once unused. About 75% of this work is done by the native aquatic plants, but the additional 25% is due to the resulting biofilm.

John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
The East Fork Raw Water Supply Project is only the second, and already the largest, in North America to use wetlands to polish and reuse water. With population predictions in North Texas, the wetland provides more water for relatively cheap that will expand with the population in contrast to building another reservoir. In addition, wildlife has already taken advantage of this vast reserve of which include otters, bald eagles, freshwater shrimp, and American white pelicans.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

John Bunker Sands Wetlands

Wetlands of John Bunker Sands Wetland Center
Located about 32 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of Dallas, the John Bunker Sands Wetlands covers 8.5 km² (2,100 acres) of the Rosewood Ranches properties. This includes seasonal emergent wetlands, flooded bottomland hardwood forest, and scrub swamp. A wetland is described as areas that are saturated by either groundwater or surface water at a sufficient level to support a prevalence of life adapted to saturated soil conditions. Wetlands can include swamps, marshes, bogs, and fens and can be found on all continents except Antarctica. They are often referred to as nurseries of life as they provide habitat for thousands of both aquatic and terrestrial life, and often at transitional stages. Wetlands frequently provide for important locations of migrating waterfowl especially along major flyway routes.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

White-winged Dove

White-winged Dove(s), Zenaida asiatica
The White-winged Dove is becoming a much more common sight in North Texas, and even in parts of Oklahoma. A popular game bird, this dove originates in the southwest of the United States through parts of northwest Mexico. In the early twentieth century, the White-winged Dove population drastically dropped in part due to hunting and habitat loss. Now, this species is unofficially considered invasive in northern Texas and other parts of the country. Similar to Eastern Red Cedar, although this species is native to the state, its ability to adapt to the changing environment and push out other natives makes it invasive. With a higher level of aggression, large flocks, and similar niches to other birds, particularly the Mourning Dove, the White-winged Dove population grows with limited competition and continues to move north.

Help track the population growth of this and other species with The Great Backyard Bird Count which begins tomorrow, February 15th and runs through February 18th!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Miner Bees

Miner Bee found in Brazil
Miners are ground nesting bees that come from many families including Apidae, Andrenidae, AnthophoridaeHalictidae, and Colletidae. They are solitary bees which do not form long-lived colonies or live in a single queen-run nest. While many bees may dig nests near each other, most often the female bee digs her own burrow to rear her own young. They do not collect honey and rarely sting. In North America, the miner bee makes up the vast majority of the native species of bees. Bees face many risks including non-native species and pesticides. In South America, the threat of habitat fragmentation is a huge factor.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Native Bees

Possibly Andrena genus on Crowpoison
There are more than 3500 describe species of bee in North America, and close to 1000 species found in Texas alone. Of all bees, the European honeybee, Apis mellifera, gets the most attention, but that is due to its ability to pollinate crops; however, this species has a lesser to non-existent role in pollinating native plants. Many plants do not attract Apis mellifera as the cache of nectar may be too small, the bee the wrong size, the pollen hard to remove, or other impeding plant mechanisms.

Native bee on native flower.
The most familiar bee in Texas is the larger, fuzzy genus Bombus, or Bumblebee, but the majority of native bees are solitary. This can include the leaf-cutter bee, mason bee, mining bee, squash bee, or sunflower bee. They may also be divided by the five most common families: Apidae, Megachilidae, Halictidae, Andrenidae, and Colletidae. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recognizes at least eighteen native bees as species of greatest conservation need, with petition for some to be considered endangered species. A simple home garden with the appropriate native plants can help in the conservation efforts.

While Crowpoison has already started to bloom this year, the bees will take longer to arrive.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Crowpoison, Nothoscordum bivalve
Crowpoison, Nothoscordum bivalve, also known as False Garlic, is a cool season native perennial. In Texas, it is one of the first flowers to emerge during spring, and often flowers more than once. A member of the Lily Family, Liliaceae, it does not have a distinctive odor. Crowpoison is grazed upon by livestock, but does not make up a significant portion of their diet. Distributed among the southern states, especially prairies, it should not be confused with the invasive white garlic which also goes by the common name False Garlic.