Up on Top

After a morning of playing hide-and-seek, the sun came out, so we retired to a shady grove on top of the outcrop to eat lunch. Sheltered by Mesquite and Hackberry, we admired the miles-wide view in all directions.

Then, of course, we had to admire the plants, too. One that caught our attention--and our clothing--was Galium texense, Texas Bedstraw. This little member of the Rubiaceae (Coffee family) is equipped with curved hairs. These not only allow it clamber over all its neighbors, but they also ensure that its fruits will hitch rides on passing animals (or botanists).

A plant with a similar dispersal strategy is Stipa leucotricha (= Nasella leucotricha), Texas Needlegrass or Speagrass. The grains have a very sharp, barbed point (callus) on the bottom and can penetrate skin and clothing easily. If thrown with enough force (a favorite sport of small boys), they can cause a good bit of damage. The long awn or bristle at the top of the fruit is twisted. If the fruit falls on the ground, the awn twists and untwists with changes in humidity, actually screwing the fruit right into the soil.

Other grass-like plants on the top of the outcrop are members of the Cyperaceae or Sedge Family. Not pictured is Carex muhlenbergii. Shown is Carex planostachys (Cedar Sedge), often found in calcareous areas in association with Junipers. We have also encountered this plant at Moore's Hill, a sandstone outcrop in Grimes County.

The last plant on our tour of the top is Texas Groundsel, Senecio ampullaceus. Senecio is a huge genus, with over 1,200 species (even after many have been removed to other genera). The close-up shows a typical radiate head, with disk flowers in the middle and ray flowers around the edge.

Go on to explore Coal Creek
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Last updated on July 30, 1998 by Monique Reed