I reported in an earlier post that the recent rains, following a significant drought, had resulted in abundant Three-seed croton in South Texas. A little further to the north at the Rockpile, the drought was of course followed initially by a severe freeze/snow event lasting several days then a cumulative rain of some 14 inches! The rain brought back the grass, for which I am grateful, but the combination of drought/snow/rain seems to have changed the diversity of the vegetation as well.
On a recent tour, I noticed a great increase in the presence of “Snow on the Mountain”, which is an important winter food for Bobwhite quail in the Texas Hill Country, but is considered rare on the Rio Grande Plain. This showy plant, mildly toxic to livestock, has always been on the Rockpile, but never in the abundance I saw. Why now? I have to believe it is due to the extreme cold, which mimicked the Hill Country weather all the way south to my small ranchito. The seeds were always there, but did not trigger until the extended cold, much like some species of peaches.
Another effect of the extreme cold was the killing or partial killing of Huisache. Fine with me as that is not one of my favorite shrubs. Some are dead to the roots while others seem to have died partway down. Where the plant was killed outright, “Old Man’s Beard” or “Virgin’s Bower”, a great quail food/cover vine has taken the opportunity to use the dead Huisache to climb up and get some sunlight. Those seeds, too, were always there, waiting for a shot at stardom!
Always something to learn when you explore Nature. That’s why I encourage younger people, and certainly new land owners, to get out and experience Nature. It is always changing; different weather at different times can make great changes in your flora. Take the time to notice the plants and wildlife, it makes for a great day in the brush and a good excuse to take the dog!