23 February 2007

Exploring the Big Thicket

Yesterday our co-op group went on a nature trail in the Big Thicket.
thicket - n. dense growth of shrubbery or trees
The woods around here are much different than the woods in the Blue Ridge Mountains where we lived. While each has its own beauty, we are specifically enjoying a closer look at the flowers, birds, and trees in this area. While we were at the Big Thicket Visitor's center, I purchased field guides on wildflowers, birds, trees & shrubbery, and insects (eek!) indigenous to the area.
In my own yard I have a vast amount of trees and shrubs that I know nothing about. The most curious of them was a bush that seemed to have budded and bloomed with these purplish flowers - without a single leaf on the branches. I have never in my life seen anything like it. It also has these little buds that precede the flowers that look like a rabbit's foot. I am not very practiced at looking these things up in the field guides, but it appears to be something called a Skeleton Plant - which would make sense of the leaflessness - and the picture shows similar flowers. What I can tell you is that it caught my attention when it started blooming. Those vivid purplish flowers really catch your eye!
On our hike (I always think of a hike meaning hill-climbing - however, the do call it hiking around here on the flat land!) showed us many other interesting finds. Here are some more:
Some exotic fungi growing on a tree downed by Hurricane Rita

A yellow flower - it was growing on some sort of a vine - I think I have identified it as Yellow Prairie Flax

A young Magnolia - they grow wild here. I can't wait until they start to bloom!

A crawdad hole - which I have never seen in WV!

Now - this is by far the most interesting find of the day. We were hiking a trail called the 'Sundew Trail' that was known for a host of carnivorous plants. This little plant that has the round shape and red tips is the Sundew. It is only about the size of a quarter but we found tons of them once we knew what we were looking for. They were fascinating. Some brave kids touched them and said they left their fingers feeling sticky. That stickiness is what traps the insects that the plant "eats". Another interesting carnivorous plant we saw at the ranger station was the Pitcher plant. I read about it today - the special leaves form a long tube. Nectar inside the straw-like stems attract insects. The insects can crawl in past the hairs in the stems but not back out. Once in the stems the digestive juices help the plant absorb nutrients from the insects. This is not a great picture of them - they are quite fascinating to look at in person.
There are about 20 trails within 10 miles of our house. In fact I was so perplexed by the different kinds of yellow flowers in the wildflower book that the kids and I jumped in the car and went back out to take a look at it today - in hopes of correctly identifying it. I can't wait to check out the rest of the trails. The one thing I hope we do not discover is an alligator or snake! There are tons of them around - as well as - believe it or not wild hogs. Freaky! I have no experience with any of these things. But I am discovering a lot of beautiful nature in Texas.
One thing we learned from a video about the Big Thicket is that this area is one of the best "birding" areas in the US. It is thought that the many species of birds were forced to this area during the ice age. Hmm.... I am going to go and plant myself out there one day just to sit and quietly see what comes to visit. I was also inspired to put up birdseed and hummingbird feeders around my front porch. This place is like a great big science lab.


  1. Very cool nature walk and your pictures are great! Can I bring my science class there on a field trip?


Awaiting your words......
♥ Juls ♥