Don Young's Tandy Hills Park Prairie Notes 


Community Activist and ardent advocate of Tandy Hills Park, Don Young, periodically sends emails he calls "Prairie Notes", which are basically poetic descriptions, with illustrations, about the current state of Tandy Hills Park. Below you will find Don Young's Solstice Prairie Note and Prairie Notes that preceded it.

Read Don Young's letter to Tommy Lee Jones about Barnett Shale Drilling, Tandy Hills Park and the Texas Prairie.

Downtown Fort Worth | Stockyards | Fort Worth Herd | La Grave Field | Fort Worth Flatulence 
Fort Worth Nature Preserve  |
Sante Fe Rail Market | Green with Envy | Fort Woof
Iron Horse Trail | Chisholm Trail Days | Main St. Art Fair | Stock Show | Stock Show Parade
Stockyard Ruins | Fort Worth Spring Palace | Tandy Hills Park | Oakland Lake Park


Prairie Notes: Le Parfum du Prairie
July 12, 2008

The high season for Tandy Hills wildflowers has long passed. The plein air artists have yielded to the burning sun of July and retreated into their air-conditioned studios. Who could blame them?

Despite the heat and humidity and the ominous threats of hydrocarbon profiteers, Tandy Hills Natural Area and adjacent properties remain inviting for those willing to take a plunge into the mystery of mid-summer, tall grass prairie.

Clouds of busy dragonflies swim on the heavy, morning air. Sky-slashing, Cooper’s Hawks, keep my senses sharp while a growing population of Cottontail rabbits keep Olive the prairie dog on full alert. Life is good at Tandy Hills Natural Area.

All photos by Don Young, 7/14/2008

Olive the Prairie Dog

Texas Bluebells west of THNA
 (8/08) DY

The prairie is not flower-free, but with a few notable exceptions, mid-summer at THNA is, more or less, a blur of green and tan set against the blazing blue, summer sky waiting, for a little rain.

The deceptively delicate, Texas Bluebells (Eustoma exaltatum ssp. Russellianum) rooted in hidden seeps, still carpet the gently rolling Tandy Hills defying the broiling heat with their purple splendor. The white-tailed stems of tall, twiggy, False Gaura, (Stenosiphon linifolius) bend in the slightest breeze. Wiry, white-flowered Compass plants (Silphium laciniatum) follow the sun like NORAD dish antennae. Tiny sprigs of Mock Pennyroyal (Hedeoma drummondii) timidly fade into the grassy whole that, like us, is waiting for a little rain.

Compass Plant THNA
 (8/08) DY

While the bright colors of mid-summer are few and far between, the smells at THNA move delightfully to the forefront. There is something about the heat of summer that unlocks the aromatic essence of Tandy Hills. When the conditions are just right, a fragrant alchemy of herbaceous aromas floats on the hot, southern breeze.

It seems to come and go, depending on temperature, humidity, the whims of nature and, the nose of the beholder (?). My nose detects a composition rich with notes of Aromatic Sumac (Rhus trilobata = aromatica var. flabelliformis ), Juniper (Juniperus ashei), Engleman’s Sage (Salvia texana) and damp limestone. When the wind is just right I detect (perhaps, just memories of) a hint of September grasses. 

When the rains eventually come, the aroma is undeniably therapeutic. Which is to say that, breathing the air around Tandy Hills has the power to cure everything from a stuffy nose to a broken heart.

I don’t make such claims hastily or without many years of experience. But you must come smell for yourself. Undoubtedly, appreciation of, Le Parfum du Prairie, is a subjective endeavor, not unlike say, amateur stargazing, but one that is vital to a well-balanced life.

Come to meadow and inhale like it’s1969. 



The website of the Native Prairies Association of Texas has a page entitled, “How is a prairie different from a common field of grass?” 

After reviewing this page please write a brief letter expressing your opposition to drilling on the property adjacent to THNA and send to City Council rep., Kathleen Hicks: 


Please cc the following:


Prairie Notes: The Amazing and Unexpected Bluebell!
Summer Solstice, June 21, 2008
Of all the amazing wildflower species at Tandy Hills Natural Area, the most unexpected may well be, Texas Bluebells, Eustoma grandiflorum, (or Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum, according to BRIT and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.)

Unexpected, not only for their large, colorful blooms, but because they grow in very shallow soils and dry conditions. It is not unusual to find these cheerful flowers blooming madly in full sun in middle of a drought.

Add a little rain, like we had this week and, Voila!, they shout to the sky. See attached photos taken yesterday afternoon on an east facing slope (Bluebell Hill) on the northern end of the park. They are also widespread on the private property east and west of THNA.

IMPORTANT: Do not pick ANY of these wildflowers. They are highly toxic to humans and kill within seconds! 

Just kidding. 

-------Come to the meadow on Summer Solstice weekend and "hear" the bluebells ringing while you still can. They don't last long. The therapy is always pro bono at Tandy Hills.


All photos by Don Young, 6/20/2008

Grand & Exalted!

A natural bouquet of Sneezeweed & Bluebells

Uncommon, white pigmented Bluebells

6 o'clock shadow at THNA
The hill where these flowers are located, like all of THNA, is being overrun by invasive, woody plants such as, Texas Ash. Unless the City of Fort Worth Parks Dept. implements the Master Plan, and soon, Bluebell Hill will turn into Ash Avenue in just a few more years. Friends of THNA needs your continued support in nudging the city to, finally, begin caring for this park. I refer to THNA as the most valuable piece of real estate in the city. Why? Not only is Fort Worth prairie the most endangered ecosystem in the state of Texas, but THNA is easily the most botanically diverse piece of land we have. It deserves better.

Chesapeake Energy has leased the mineral rights to the 30+ acres of native, Fort Worth prairie west of Ben Street and contiguous with THNA. (This is separate from the 50+ acres they bought on the east side.) They will most likely begin constructing a road through the prairie and clearing a 5 acre pad site (or larger) on the property in the next few weeks. They are also planning to install a pipeline that will run through the park and the nearby neighborhood. The pipeline will carry ODORLESS, natural gas. 

I have walked this property many times and find it to be extraordinarily beautiful and exactly as botanically diverse as THNA. Despite some evidence of human impact, parts of it are even more striking than THNA. It is even home to a family of fox and other wildlife. By all rights, it should be part of THNA. But, alas, it is not. This industrial activity will ruin it for future generations and for those of us who appreciate how rare and special it is today. It will also impact THNA in a variety of ways. It breaks my heart to see this happen.

I urge you to contact Julie Wilson at Chesapeake and tell her why drilling at this location should not happen: 817-870-1250--- julie.wilson@chk.com

While you're at it, contact Mayor Moncrief and remind him that, by allowing urban gas drilling, we will all lose an irreplaceable part of our natural  heritage: 817-392-6118 ---mike.moncrief@fortworthgov.org
Prairie Notes: May 9, 2008

Beethoven's Ninth
In my ongoing quest to find an apt metaphor to describe the wonder of Tandy Hills Natural Area, I think I have discovered a new one: 

A full symphony orchestra and chorus performing Beethoven's masterpiece. 

There is simply no other way to describe the array of wildflowers blooming, right now. Brass, woodwinds, strings and percussion are all represented. They are backed by a full chorus of emerging prairie grasses. The weather is ideal. It's all so intoxicating.

For a very limited time, the following plants are blooming simultaneously:

01) Bluets (Hedyotis nigricans)
02) Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
03) Fox-glove (Penstemon baccharifolius)
04) Wild Hyacinth (Camassia scilloides)
05) Meadow (Blue) Flax (Linum pratense)
06) Yellow Flax (Linum rigidum)
07) Standing Winecup (Callirhoe pedata)
08) Stork's Bill (Erodium texanum)
09) Skullcap (Scutellaria drummondii)
10) Texas Sage (Salvia texana)
11) Sensitive Briar (Mimosa striglliosa
12) Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium enisigerum)
13) Texas Vervain (Verbena Halei)
14) Prairie Bishop's-Weed (Bifora americana)
15) Purple Cone-Flower (Echinacea angustifolia)
16) Barbara's Buttons (Marshallia caespitosa)
17) Crameria (Krameria lancelolata)
18) Engelmann Sage (Salvia engelmannii)
19) Engelmann (Cutleaf) Daisy (Engelmannia pinnatifida)
20) Yellow Sundrops (Calylophus serrulatus)
21) Texas Star (Lindheimera texana)
22) Old Plainsman (Hymenopappus scabiosaeus)
23) Greenthread (Thelesperma simplicifolium)
24) Prairie Paintbrush (Castilleja purpurea)
25) Antelope Horns Milkweed (Ascelpias asperula)
26) Fluttermill, Missouri Primrose (Oenothera missouriensis)
27) Scarlet Gaura (Gaura coccinea)
28) White Milkwort (Polygala alba)
29) Prairie (Indian) Plantain (Cacalia plantaginea)
30) Two-leaved Senna (Cassia Romeriana)
31) Yucca (Yucca sp.)
32) Queen's Delight, (Stillingia texana)
33) Prairie Brazoria, (Brazoria scutellarioides)
34) Prairie Fleabane (Erigeron modestus)
35) Prairie Larkspur (Delphinum carolinianum)

I may have missed one or two and new varieties are on the verge of opening. Come to the meadow - this week - and "hear" the Tandy Hills Philharmonic in their only appearance this year.

Barbara's Buttons at Tandy Hills Natural Area.

If you come to the Tandy Hills Natural Area in the next few days you will be able to see an incredible display of, Barbara's Buttons. Due to ideal weather conditions, I suppose, they are more widespread and vigorous this year than I have ever seen before. The largest most striking groupings are on the far eastern edges of THNA. Go down the easternmost trail and head east on the first trail you come to. 
Prairie Notes: March 23, 2008

  click a thumbnail to view a photo 

Greetings from Tandy Hills Natural Area-
One by one, the Spring-flowering plants of Tandy Hills Natural Area, are taking their turn in the spotlight. Trout Lily flowers have yielded to Creek Plum, a large colony of which can be found along the main trail. Monarchs and other butterflies were swirling around the plants in ecstasy when I took these photos. Puccoon, Purple Paintbrush and a host of other rare
species are shyly waiting in the wings, waiting for the earth to warm a bit more. As you can see from the bottom two photos, when it does warm up, the results are striking. It gets better every week.

On the fauna side of things, THNA received a visit from a hungry looking coyote last week and he/she wasn't the least bit shy. (see photo) This one was casually patrolling near View Street at 5:30 pm. Although we like sharing Tandy Hills with wildlife, care must be taken to protect them and us. Please see the enclosed attac
hments on how best to do that in urban areas.

Speaking of where the wild things are...

Prairie Fest is only 34 days away on April 26. Come dance barefoot on the prairie while you help us save some of it. Our solar powered stage makes Grammy winners, Brave Combo sound way better. (See a complete list of performers at the website.)

Don't miss being a part of the greenest of the green festivals. Sponsor and Exhibitor info is available at the website. DEADLINE is April 7. 

Come to the meadow, where the therapy is always pro bono.

Don Young
March 23, 2008

Creek Plum (Prunus rivularis)

Creek Plum with monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)

Coyote (Canis latrans) aka: Prairie wolf

Prairie Notes: February 09, 2008

Message of the Milkweed

The dead of winter is upon us. Braving the cold wind on a recent hike at Tandy Hills Natural Area, I observed that last seasons tall grasses have begun their slow motion freefall to Mother Earth. The colorless, skeletal remains of Eryngo lanterns belie the deep purple of their recent youth. Lanky limbs of False Gauras sway in the chilly breeze. Bleached, leathery fans of Compass plant and dried husks of Prairie Primrose litter the cold ground. It’s winter, all right. Not a mosquito in sight. 

The trees lining the steep slopes and drainages have shed their leaves, which have piled up along the trails and winding creek banks. Sightlines through the landscape are much longer. Wildlife burrows, carefully hidden a few months ago, are now clearly visible. The only interruptions to the eye in this drab, grey/brown landscape are the bright red fruits of the Possumhaw tree.

Despite few visible signs of life, Tandy Hills is far from dead. In fact, an unfathomable source of energy is at work. Down along the sheltering creek banks, in the deep compost of last years leaves, lie the spawning grounds of the elusive, Trout Lily, one of springs early messengers. Plunge your hand into the fragrant soil and you can smell April.

Higher up the slopes small, fragrant rosettes of Engelmann’s Sage, are silently forming (at least to human ears) into dense colonies that will soon blanket the ground in blue-purple flowers. All over this winter wonderland the energy that produces the season we call spring is almost overwhelming. 

Hiking back up the hill, I spied the strange shape of a milkweed pod in the grass. The gray-green, spike-studded marvel looks like something from a 50’s sci-fi flick. I took it home and placed it on a table.

A few days later, just like in the movies, the pod began to transform before my eyes, splitting open lengthwise. Soon after, the “creatures” inside began to emerge. These feather-like vehicles for the milkweed seeds float lightly on the wind, not unlike the Monarch butterflies who will feed on the fruit of the mature plants come spring.

As I sat outside composing this essay on an unseasonably mild February afternoon, my concentration was interrupted by a loud thump. I looked up to see a disoriented Cedar Waxwing lying on the ground next to a nearby window. The window was smeared with damp feathers. Chasing the cat away, I carefully picked up the uncommonly beautiful creature for a closer look. There was a little blood but the bird seemed OK. 

The unblinking little Icarus sat perched on my tablet while I fetched my bird guidebook and camera. Seems the little guy was drunk on fermented Juniper berries, the reason he was here in the first place. Tandy Hills is dotted with Junipers and the fruits are indeed ripe. Feeling like a police desk clerk confronting a DWI suspect, I couldn’t resist this rare photo op and took a snapshot of the unfortunate victim. (See attached photo.) Seconds later, he joined his mates in a Sugarberry tree, where he sat motionless, perhaps pondering his fate, for a good hour.

About a week later, after an extended warm spell, I took to hills again. Hiking down to where I found the Milkweed pod, I was astounded to see innumerable milkweed seeds parachuting in the wind. As if obeying a silent command from an unseen force, it seemed every milkweed pod at Tandy Hills had split open at the same moment in time.

Thinking back on the magnificence of these events and the creatures great and small that occupy Tandy Hills, I feel acutely aware of how fragile and tenuous their existence is, especially in the Barnett Shale region of Texas. I am reminded of the importance of our role in protecting natural areas from those who are only interested in what they can take from the land and put in the bank. Please continue supporting efforts to save some of Texas.

Come to the meadow and feel the powerful energy that will slowly transform Tandy Hills into a color-drenched spectacle in less than 80 days.

Don Young
February 09, 2008

Trout Lily spawning ground
Trout Lily Spawning Ground
Milkweed Pod
Milkweed Pod
Cedar Waxwing
Drunk Cedar Waxwing

Downtown Fort Worth | Stockyards | Fort Worth Herd | La Grave Field | Fort Worth Flatulence 
Fort Worth Nature Preserve  |
Sante Fe Rail Market | Green with Envy | Fort Woof
Iron Horse Trail | Chisholm Trail Days | Main St. Art Fair | Stock Show | Stock Show Parade
Stockyard Ruins | Fort Worth Spring Palace | Tandy Hills Park | Oakland Lake Park

A Longhorn in Wildflowers at Lake Grapevine
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