Spring is finally here on the Caddo National Grasslands. The flowers are blooming and butterflies are arriving. The botanical work is finally picking up in pace. Spring has also brought in many visitors to the Caddo for camping, fishing, and hunting. The crappie have begun to bite on Coffeemill Lake and eastern turkey season has begun. There has been many sightings of eastern turkeys within the last two weeks.
As of today 185 asclepias have been recorded on the Caddo on three different units. Most of the occurrences have been A. viridis. 4 monarch butterflies have been observed as well. No caterpillars or pupae have been observed.
I will post more info and some pictures soon.
New ride, new location, and new blooms (Cercis canadensis).
A lot has changed since I submitted my last blog in December. I am a second time Botany Intern for the U. S. Forest Service. Last year I was based out of the LBJ National Grasslands at Decatur, TX. I am now working out of the Caddo National Grasslands Work Center “office” located near Honey Grove, TX. This location is a much more rural and remote area than before and needs lots of work done botanically. I am looking forward to the season to really kick into gear as the weather gets warmer. Hopefully I will be able to share some neat pictures and information here within the next month.
Office entrance at the Caddo National Grasslands at Honey Grove, Texas.
Nearly five months ago I began a journey with the CLM internship program with no idea what would be in store for me. Little did I know that I would be a pioneer of something new to the state of Texas. This botany internship is the first to be established with the United States Forest Service in Texas.
I have met many great people from the Caddo-LBJ National Grasslands District office, the Ladybird Wildflower Foundation, and Texas Nature Conservancy. I have seen new sides facets of the conservation that I have previously were unaware off, such as wildland fire fighting.
Accomplishments achieved include the completion of the offices first seed collection, a monarch butterfly survey, and Asclepias survey.
This internship has opened new possibilities and options for the coming days. But for now it is just time to sit back and relax in the moment.
First collection complete and shipped to Bend for cleaning.
The Native Plant Society of Texas Symposium (NPSOT) was a fantastic experience!(minus the Austin traffic) The atmosphere of the symposium was both professional and friendly, as were the many representatives of the agencies present. I was able to attend a botany field trip at the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Preserve and nearby conservation easements. The tour leader, a retired Fish and Wildlife employee, was very knowledgeable about the local flora of the area and enthusiastic about sharing his wisdom with us. Unfortunately, a few of the field trips near Bastrop State Park and the Lost Pines area had to be canceled due to a wildfire. Topics presented at the symposium included: prairie restoration of parks, observations of the local flora, and the recovery of the Lost Pines from 2011 Bastrop fire. The presentation over the 2011 Bastrop Fire was quite ironic, considering some of the area included in that study was currently ablaze again. I would highly recommend to anyone, who is even slightly interested about Texas plants, to go to the next NPSOT meeting.
Helianthus maximiliani at Clymer Meadow.
The week after NPSOT, I had the privilege to be a guest on the Texas Nature Conservancy’s Clymer Meadow Preserve at Celeste, TX to survey for monarch butterflies and Ascelpias spp. I had previously learned about the preserve from one of my former professors, who happens to be the former preserve manager. It was an awesome feeling to be working at a place that I had previously studied in the classroom.
The migration of the monarch butterflies along the I-35 corridor ended with the coming of a major storm system that brought North Texas a tremendous amount of rain and cold weather. It has been three weeks since I have seen a monarch butterfly. The storm system not only ended the migration, it brought major flooding to Corsicana, TX, the town where my wife and I both live.
Monarch butterfly on Symphyotrichum ericoides at Clymer Meadow.
Stay warm my friends. Winter is coming.
All is well at the Caddo/LBJ National Grasslands. New news since my last post include the completion of collecting Asclepias viridiflora seed, plotting of >600 milkweeds on the LBJ Grasslands units, and one more occurrence of a monarch caterpillar! On the other hand, the monarch migration has not been that noticeable on the grasslands. My focus will soon switch from the LBJ Grasslands to the Caddo National Grasslands located near Lodonia, Texas.
Caddo National Grasslands units located near Ladonia, Texas.
Unlike the LBJ, the Caddo is part of the Blackland Prairie Ecoregion. I am looking forward to seeing if there is any variation in Asclepias composition in the plant communities when I arrive at the Caddo.
Last, but not least, I have just arrived at my hotel this evening in Austin, Texas for the Native Plant Society of Texas Symposium. The schedule for the next two days includes field trips to refuges, state and private lands, workshops, presentations, and special speakers over the native flora.
Schedule for the Native Plant Society Symposium at Austin, Texas.
Until next time,
Ornate box-turtle found during an archaeological and botanical survey. (brought my shell)
The time here has flown by at the LBJ National Grasslands the past month. The Asclepias viridiflora seed collection is nearly complete. With the change of pace, I have been able to shadow the Range Specialist here. We met with state and regional Range Conservationist with the NRCS to organize a field trip for landowners to the grasslands to teach about range land management concerning the use of grazing and fire. (No fires occurred, only lectures) My mentor has also recently had me go with an archaeological crew while searching for milkweeds to gain exposure to their field. We also measured an old grave.
It gets better! The local monarch butterflies have at last revealed themselves. To my surprise these butterflies have become extremely active in pollination in the evenings, starting around 5:30 pm. The primary pollinating target of the monarchs has been Liatris mucronata. The monarchs have been accompanied by various species of swallowtails, bumble bees, and honey bees. Last,but not least, I finally found a monarch caterpillar! Life is great!
Monarch butterfly pollinating a Liatris mucronata on Unit 49.
Monarch taking flight from a Cephalanthus occidentalis by Black Creek Lake at Unit 48.
Monarch caterpillar on host Asclepias viridis on Unit 31.
Howdy from Decatur, TX!
It has been an interesting couple of weeks, as I have began my journey with the CLM program with the National Forest Service at the LBJ National Grasslands. The LBJ National Grasslands are located roughly forty-five minutes from my home town. Meeting the crew has been an awesome experience as more of them pour in from fire details across the US. I have come to slowly realize that the world is a much smaller place than I had previously realized. Some of the crew are acquaintances of my recent professors at Tarleton State University, while others are related to friends of mine from my home town.
Welcome to the new chapter of my life.
I am humbled that I was allowed to go to the field on my own on the first week. My mentor has guided me toward the direction I needed to begin with this project. Recently, I have been going to the field with a plant conservationist from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Foundation to add to my botanical knowledge and skills. Now, I am recording occurrences of local milkweed species on the National Grasslands, collecting their seeds, and monitoring for monarch butterflies and their larvae. Although I have not had any luck with monarchs, we found a queen larvae on a very sad looking Asclepias viridis. (no worries the little guy was given a better home on the neighboring plant) The milkweed target species include Asclepias asperula subsp. capricornu, A. engelmanniana, A. viridis, and A. viridiflora.
Until next time…
Recording coordinates of an Asclepias viridiflora.
Bumblebee pollinating an Asclepias viridiflora.
Stealth is key when trying to capture a picture of the mighty bumblebee in the act of pollination.
The queen butterfly larvae on a very sad looking Asclepias viridis on Unit 71 at the LBJ National Grasslands.
Gathering Asclepias species occurrences on Unit 49 at the LBJ National Grasslands.
Not a target species, but very beautiful Rosa foliolosa on Unit 71.
Recording the occurrence of an Asclepias viridiflora in bloom.
Asclepias viridiflora in bloom.