My housemate in Austin, Anita, and I are taking a quick mini-vacation to Fredericksburg, Texas. I haven’t taken her many places since she moved here, and I knew she’d love the Hill Country, even while we are enduring weeks and weeks of incredible heat.
Yesterday, we drove out to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a place you should also go, if you’re visiting the middle of Texas. It really is fascinating, especially in the spring or after a rain (due to flowers and little pools of water with tiny shrimp in them).
However, it’s very crowded in the spring and fall, so we discovered the great advantage of heading out early in the morning in midsummer is having the entire rim trail to ourselves (we saw one other hiker). We took Anita’s dog, so we didn’t try to climb the summit. Also, heat.
What I DID do, though, was put on my Master Naturalist hat (figuratively–I’d brought hiking boots, but forgot my hat), and see what kinds of plants, flowers, and other things I could spot. I’d never been to Enchanted Rock in the summer, so I did find some great surprises! And of course, I entered them all in my iNaturalist observations. Enjoy the photos, while I tell you about some of my favorite discoveries.
I have to say that the Texas persimmon was my number one favorite find. I will admit that I ate a bunch of them. There were plenty, and I could tell that the raccoons had also been eating a lot of them. They taste a little like a cultivated persimmon, but with a nice bit of molasses flavor. I would love to see if they would grow at the ranch. I’m going to look and see if anyone sells them. There sure were a lot at Enchanted Rock!
The most popular thing I saw with the folks on iNaturalist has been the bug. It’s a wheel bug, easily identified by the wheel-like “pronotal armor.” I was happy to learn that, being an assassin bug, they like to eat Japanese beetles.
There were many prickly pears, including two types, but one I can’t figure out. So many looked very juicy and ripe, which reminds me to harvest some at the ranch (with the official prickly-pear harvesting tool, the salad tong (according to Sean Wall).
The other types of cactus were very lovely, as well. I identified these as lace hedgehog cactus, but one observer suggested another type. I hope to figure out the difference somehow.
A big surprise to me was finding this shaggy portulaca growing under a tree. I had no idea it grew in the wild, though I’ve seen ones I plant reproduce before. This is a tiny little plant, and you can tell it was hiding in some grass, so I am proud of myself for spotting it.
While I had no trouble spotting yucca, ball moss, oaks, and other large things, I was quite pleased by another little bitty plant I managed to spot. It’s a vine with very tiny flowers that smell just great. This is a bearded swallow-wort (Metastelma barbigerum), and this is about as far north as it grows. It’s mostly found in southern Texas and northeastern Mexico. I was happy to see it and want to learn more!
Of course, we enjoyed all the beautiful rocks, lichens, and grasses. I’ll leave you with these lovely ferns, which were growing under a rock overhang. There are many possibilities as to what it could be, but the brochure for the area says they are fairy sword ferns, so I’ll go with that.
This place is sacred ground, so we were most pleased to walk it. I’d encourage you to read up about Enchanted Rock. I got a big old book, called Enchanted Rock: A Natural and Human History, by Lance Allred. It’s a great start, though the website will definitely tell you lots!