Thursday, November 20, 2014

Morning Nature Walk

This is our 2nd week of AOy3. While last week we just did an impromptu pull-over-the-car-by-the-side-of-the-road-to-grab-a-pretty-sample-of-a-plant nature focus, I wanted to make sure this week we had a good amount of leisure time to take a hike and see what we could see. The kids really enjoy going on hikes, and as we live in such a beautiful part of Texas with lots of nature just outside, I really have been needing to schedule this time into our week. Otherwise, as history has shown me, we just don't make it a habit! 

This morning we took a walk on a trail and ended up taking some time to identify and study more closely a couple of the numerous species of oak trees here. We identified the post oak - Quercus stelatta - with a good look at the leaf shape (a Greek cross), acorn and tree trunk (very short).

at the post oak
post oak leaf (Greek cross) and acorn

We also enjoyed admiring the Texas Red Oak (or Buckley's oak) - Quercus buckleyi - which is a beautiful crimson red right now! Its acorn is darker and larger than the post oak's.

Texas Red Oak
red oak leaf and acorn

The kids chose the Texas Red Oak to add to their nature notebooks today. They enjoy doing the leaf rubbings as well.

I kept seeing a small tree that was unknown to me before, so I attempted to identify it once home. As it turns out, this is a shrub called the Willow baccharis - Baccharis salicina - a native plant to California. It is not a welcome plant here evidently because it seems to be like our ash juniper, which sucks a lot of moisture and nutrients out of the soil. It also is poisonous to wildlife and livestock, so provides very little value there. Apparently there have even been studies done in our county as to how to best control this pesky shrub!

Willow baccharis

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