Friday, September 8, 2017

Madrone Canyon Hike on September 2, 2017

Hurricane Harvey brought a generous amount of rain and cooler than average temperatures, making for a very pleasant hike last Saturday. Jean Love El-Harim lead the hike, and I followed behind our three enthusiastic hikers as co-leader.
The evergreen sumac (Rhus virens) was blooming.
What are they looking at? 
A wolf spider has built its web on top of the grass, poised to pounce.
 Look what we found on the trail...the skull (far right) and entire vertebrae of a snake! One hiker thought it was a string of beads.
When the Texas Madrone tree sheds its bark, branches smooth and creamy are revealed, hence the common name lady's leg.
Our next hike will be October 7, hope you can make it!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Madrone Canyon Hike on July 1, 2017

Mountain pink (Centaurium beyrichii) 
In spite of the hot, hazy, humid weather, a mom and child showed up at the trailhead for their first guided hike on the Madrone Canyon Trail. Jean Love El Harim lead the hike, and I shadowed. The showstopper bloomers were the Mountain pinks (Centaurium beyrichii), their petite bouquets of brilliant color spattered along the trail and on limestone outcroppings. Last reported, the Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpawere putting on seed pods that look like star fruit. They have dried completely into flutter mills encapsulating the tiny seeds.

Missouri primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) has gone to seed

Hello, my name is Paula Tuttle, and I'm excited to start leading hikes with Jean on the Madrone Canyon Trail. Jean and I are Capital Area Master Naturalists and are collaborating on a few projects together.

I'm also a docent at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, where I've become acquainted with the uncommon Texas madrone (Arbutus xalapenis Kunth) one of my favorite trees. They are rarely seen in our central Texas landscapes, more common to the mountains of west Texas, which may partly explain their mystique.

I look forward to exploring the mysteries of this beautiful native Texas tree and its unique ecosystem at our next outing on September 2nd.

I hope to meet you on the trail!


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Madrone Canyon Hike on May 6, 2017

It was comfortably cool, bright, and dry for our hike on May 6. Lots of plants are blooming now: Engelmann’s Sage (Salvia engelmannii ), Barbara’s Buttons (Marshallia caespitosa ), Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), and Devil’s Shoestring (Nolina lindheimeriana), and  Green Lily (Schoenocaulon texanum).  The Missouri Primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) on the east side of the Canyon is putting on seed pods that look like star fruit.

Devil's shoestring
Missouri Primrose seedpods

The visitors this morning raised questions that led to the telling of two stories related to the Canyon. The first question was about the old Nike missile site in the very near vicinity. During the cold war, Austin was considered a high priority target because of its two airports. To provide air defense of Bergstrom Air Force Base, United States Army Nike-Hercules surface-to-air missile sites were constructed during 1959. One of two Nike missile sites in the Austin area, BG-80,was located on the hill just east of the Canyon. After the missile site was shut down, the property was given to the University of Texas System and is now the UT Bee Caves Research Center.

The other question arose when I pointed out the grapevine (Vitis cinerea, synonym Vitis berlandieri) growing on a small juniper near the Canyon rim, telling the visitors that “this was the Texas grapevine that saved the French wine industry.” In 1880, the phylloxera insect was destroying the vineyards of France. The French scientist Pierre Viala was named to find a way to save the vineyards. Viala came to Denison, Texas and met with Thomas Volney Munson. Because Munson knew the Texas rootstocks were resistant to phylloxera, he suggested that the only way to save the French vineyards was to graft the Texas rootstocks with the French vines. Viala agreed, and Munson organized the collection of thousands of bundles of dormant stem cuttings from native grapes in Central Texas and shipped them to France. The vines were the breeding stock for the rootstocks which saved the European wine industry. For this effort, the French government awarded Munson the Legion of Honor, Chevalier du Merite Agricole. The rootstocks used throughout the world today originated in Europe from the native grape material that Munson gathered in Texas.

All are welcome to come on a guided hike through the Madrone Canyon on the first Saturday of any month.  For more information, visit the Madrone Canyon page on the Laura's Library website.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Madrone Canyon Hike 11/5/2016

What a beautiful, cool, misty morning it was to meet at the head of the Madrone Canyon trail on Saturday November 4. We saw many Ladies tresses orchids (Spiranthes cernua) blooming, especially on the east wall of the Canyon. You can read more about them in the Native Plant Information Network

We saw the cyanobacteria Nostoc commune in several of its forms along the trail, from crusty black to gelatinous green.

Thank you, Alex Meyers, for moving the information plaque into the Canyon where visitors will see it and get more information about our wonderful Madrone trees.

Spiders had spun their webs, studded with dewdrops and clearly visible across the trail at several points. 

We even got an exciting show. A funnel-web spider had spun a web in the grass right by the side of the trail. As we leaned down to get a closer look at the web and to locate the funnel-shaped entrance to the spider's burrow in the ground, a very small cricket crawled on the web that extended several square inches flat on the grass like a blanket laid out for a picnic. As we watched, the spider jumped out of the burrow and grabbed the little cricket. Much to our surprise, the cricket got away! And the spider ran to hide under a rock. Our oohs, ahhs, and peering faces had probably disturbed her hunting technique.

Thank you, Juanita Juarez, for the photos!

Hope to see soon in the Canyon. Our next hike will be on December 3.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Stamen Development Time Lapse

The stamens in a flower develop over time just like the plant growing. Here is an amazing time laps video of stamen development in a lily: Stamen Development You Tube

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


We find lichens all over central Texas and especially on oaks and limestone... we have a bit of each of these exposed in the canyon. Here is an article on exactly how many species are out there. Florida lichen census

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Roadrunner and The August Hike info

One of the more common birds to see in the canyon this year are Roadrunners. This is a fairly large bird, and I surprised him as I rounded a corner while hiking.

I hope you can join us to conduct the monthly plant survey at the Madrone Canyon trail at The Laura Bush library on August 1. Bring your books and field guides and let's identify what's blooming in the Canyon. We will discuss the plants we find as well as some tips and pointers on botanical photography.

We will meet at the Trailhead (parking area) to wander and wonder for an hour or so. Dress comfortably for the weather; long pants and sturdy shoes with closed toes are always recommended. For your personal use, you may wish to bring a hat, water bottle, sunscreen, insect repellant, field guides, notebook and pen, camera, and / or binoculars.

If you plan to come, please let me know. As always, everyone is welcome and no special expertise is required though all expertise is appreciated! Patience, curiosity, and willingness to move slowly and look closely are essential. Our findings will be posted at the library.

We will be joined by Master Naturalists and others interested in the flora and fauna of
Madrone Canyon.

August 1st 8:30 AM at the Library

searust (at)