Botany 620 - Field Trip Log
Minter Springs/Hidalgo Falls
Last field trip - 23 April 1996

Minter Springs offers an unusual set of unusual features, and these combine to make the area a 'traditional' botanical site of Brazos County with unusually high biodiversity. It is a classic 'head of drainage' site with gravely exposures and xeric, open areas that favor the native flora, including the local endangered species, Spiranthes parksii. It has been a community gathering site for many years and this has provided shelter from over-grazing, development, and general disturbance that marks most of the county. Finally, the area includes an constant-flow spring thereby allowing a floristic mix and mesic and xeric-adapted taxa.

This 'old field' and adjacent roadsideslook a bit dull from a distance, but closer inspection reveals a diverse array of low-growing native species that managed to avoid a recent mowing. These include taxa showing unusual floral morphologies that are classified by Cronquist in the Polygales, Krameria and Polygala. Exploration of the outflow from Minter Springs resulted in the discovery of a large, linear-leaved representative of the Alismatidae that, once properly identified, will be represented in the image gallery.

Points of contact between major geological formations and major drainage systems produce geographic 'hotspots' with regard to floristic diversity and human history. Prior to the development of bridges, these areas focused human movement to river crossing 'low points' that have witnessed ancient crosssings by bands of Native Americans, Spanish explorers, and the first Texans. Unfortunately, Hildago Falls (above and an overview), is now an eroded, weedy, trash dump that overlooks a heavily polluted river. In addition, the tall, hardwood forests of the Brazos River floodplain have been replaced by pure stands of Sorghum and Gossypium and, as a result, the rich natural and human history of these areas is no longer evident. A very conspicuous element of the weedy, non-native flora of the Hildago Falls area is Arundo donax, an Old World grass originally introduced to stabilize soil and later naturalized to compete with - and displace -the native flora. This dynamic is evident on an eroded hillside that supports a mixed stand of Arundo and its native analog, Arundinaria gigantea, a plant that once formed extensive 'cane-breaks' in local floodplains. Both taxa form clonal colonies via rhizomes and a look at the massive rhizomes of Arundo demonstrates its ability to spread and compete.

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Created on 1 May 1996