At the end of June, I spent the weekend with friends on the western edge of the Llano Uplift in Mason County, deep in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. The James River, a short waterway spanning 36 miles before emptying into the Llano River, cuts through the 20 acre property. Never deeper than 12" or so, the river is fed by rain runoff and numerous springs. The area was home to Native Americans, and then white settlers by 1860. The river is known for its cleanliness as it's very remote and unspoiled by agricultural pollution.
Because of replenishing spring rains, the area was bursting with blooms and wildlife, like much of Texas in this unusually wet season. The limestone terrain was often rough and hard to traverse.
There were numerous fun species to identify here. Much of this flora is unique to the Hill Country and Edwards Plateau. The following photos are my documentation of the succulent and shrub species found on site.
Dasylirion texanum is one of three Dasylirion species found in Texas and the Southwest. D. texanum is the one species found in the Texas Hill Country. The other two species, D. wheeleri and D. leiophyllum, are found in the Big Bend of Texas and southern New Mexico and Arizona. The wheeleri and texanum species have found their way into the nursery industry and have proven valuable in a low-maintenance landscape, with their popularity ever increasing. With skyscraping bloom stalks that come yearly, how can you deny their beauty?
Along an intermittent creek that flows into the James River, one will find Yucca torreyi. This Yucca species is found from the Hill Country west to the Big Bend region. This species was first identified and recognized by John Torrey, a Columbia University botanist in 1859, just as white settlers were coming to the area. The fruit and fibers were utilized by Native Americans.
Yucca elata is not typically found this far east, so it was a nice surprise to find this trunking species. (Disclaimer: could be trunking specimens of Y. constricta)
A more common Texas Yucca species, Y. constricta is a non-trunking species that produces a nice filament along its leaf margins.
Echinocereus reichenbachii is a common Texas Echinocereus species that tends to follow sheets of solid rock beds covered by a shallow layer of growing medium. In the spring, vivid pink flowers adorn the white towers, creating a striking contrast.
I admit that I audibly gasped when I stumbled across this species. I have not found a specimen this large before, which is the reason I used an iPhone 5 for scale. I probably would not have found this guy if it weren't blooming. Because of its size and supposed age, I was hoping to find additional T. setispinus near by, but was unsuccessful. In fact, this was the only specimen I recorded on this site.
Echinocereus enneacanthus, or Pitaya, is a cactus species that follows the Rio Grande from the Gulf of Mexico to the state of New Mexico. Mason County is about as far north of the river as this species is found. It is fairly widespread on this property.
The third Echinocereus species found on site, E. coccineus will display a brilliant red bloom in the spring. This was the only clump I found. Unlike E. enneacanthus, this species occurs on the Edwards Plateau and is found again throughout the Southwest US.
The thinnest branching of all Chollas, Cylindropuntia leptocaulis will flower in the spring, sporting pale green blooms. The red fruit will hold from summer though winter and can provide some pops of color. But don't bump against this plant; the branches will easily attach themselves to your clothing and skin.
Another result of the unusually wet spring are some blooms occurring out of typical season. By June, Opuntias are usually setting fruit from earlier blooms. Instead, they are continuing to bloom well into the warm summer months.
Similar to your garden Portulaca, P. pilosa grows close to the ground and is found from Mexico to Nebraska, and east to Florida.
Just missing a nice blooming cycle by about a week, I was still able to capture a few straggling blooms of Mimosa aculeaticarpa, or Catclaw Mimosa, named for the recurvature of the thorns that tug at your skin and clothes. This low-growing, deciduous shrub is a great attractor of pollinators and is found from west Texas to southern New Mexico and Arizona.
This site was absolutely covered in Aloysia gratissima and unlike the Catclaw Mimosa, I captured these at just the right time. The sweet fragrance is no stranger to bees and other pollinators, hence the common name of Beebrush. This species is found along the Rio Grande and northward into the Hill Country.
Above the James River, I managed to observe a native Sumac, Rhus virens. One can tell by the habitat that this species prefers a well-draining growing medium.
Like Mimosa aculeaticarpa, this Mimosa has a similar flower structure but blooms pink instead, making it easy to spot in the scrub.
This wetland plant was found sporadically up and down the James River, typically at the mouths of springs, creating a more reliable water source than the river itself. Loved by pollinators, this large-growing shrub will be covered in white, ball-shaped blooms during the hottest months as long as moisture is consistent.
Wildflowers and other perennials of the Bar None Ranch will be covered in a second chronicle.