Botany 620 - Field Trip Log
The Dormant Flora - Lick Creek Park - 30 January 1996

This extract from the distributed map provides a rough track of our path through Lick Creek Park on Tuesday, 30 January 1996. Our goal was to take a look at the western sandy prairie (area 12 on the map). From the parking lot to Rocky Creek we sorted out dominant tress and shubs in terms of characters (leaf, stem, fruit) that are available at this time of year. These included common tree species of the uplands (Quercus stellata, Q. marilandica, Ulmas alata, and Carya texana), woody vines (Vitus mustangensis, V. rotundifolia, Campsis radicans, and Berchemia scandens), and some herbs. The latter include three, tall, grasses (Poaceae [Gramineae])) that tend to mark 'Savannah' or open, grassy areas of the local Post Oak Savannah (overview) vegetation type. These are 'Little Bluestem' (Schizachyrium scoparium, 'Broomsedge' (Andropogon virginicus, and 'Splitbeard Bluestem' (Andropogon ternarius. These native Texas grasses are favored by grazers and therefore good 'marker' taxa for relatively natural, undisturbed prairie openings in the Navasota Valley. They are caespitose (clustered aggregations of culms with no extended rhizomes) perennials that, at this time of year, show distinctive differences with regard to relative height, coloration, and inflorescence structure.
While the path that we followed deviated from that depicted at the TAMU Herbarium Lick Creek Park WWW pages, these include a 'prairies' page that carries images of the sandy prairie and its plants as they appear during the growing season. This suite of WWW pages also features a species list, order by family, that can be screened for images representing taxa we encountered on this trip. A population of one of these species, Verbesina virginica, is pictured here. This was taken from my 'backyard' on camcorder film. It reflects what might be seen in mesic bottomlands at the park after a cold night. A close look at the base of these herbaceous perennials suggests the origin of the local name frostweed. While the plants certainly appear to be 'dormant' at this time of year, their production of these 'iceballs' seem to reflect an active xylem.
While most elements of the local flora are either dormant or working toward flowering (winter annuals), we encountered some early bloomers. These include:
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Created by HDW on 1 February 1996