BEAUCOUPS OF BASKETFLOWERS — Friends of Tandy Hills (2024)

Written By Don Young

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Prairie Notes are monthly photo/journal observations from Tandy Hills Natural Area by Founder/Director, Don Young. They include field reports, flora and fauna sightings, and more, mixed with a scoop of dry humor and a bit of philosophy.

They are available free to all who get on the FOTHNA email list.

Prairie Notes #210

June 1, 2024

1) Beaucoupsof Basketflowers
2) Prairie Artist of the Month - Sandy Fountain
Field Report - May
New Species Report - May
5) Yoga & Music On the Prairie
6) Drone, Drone On the Range
7) Land Management Update

8) PrairieSky / StarParty Report
9) SPOTLIGHT: Eco Blossom Nursery
10) Prairie Proverb - Frida Kahlo

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1) Beaucoupsof Basketflowers

The first thing to know about American Basketflower (Plectocephalus americanus) is that, they are NOT like other Thistles. The second thing to know is that, for various reasons including LOTS of rain, they are enjoying an historic year at Tandy Hills. Recently mulched areas of Privet and other invasive woody species allowed latent seed banks to come alive with multitudes of pink and purple blooms and create dense colonies in several locations.

Looks can be deceiving at first glance since Tandy Hills is also home to seven Thistle species of which Basketflower is one. But it differs from the others in significant ways. Their pink/purple, 4-inch flowers look similar to other thistles but they lack the prickly foliage. It also grows taller than most other thistles, up to six feet tall with good rains like we’ve had this spring.

The name "basketflower" refers to the stiff, straw-colored, basket weave bracts just beneath the flower head. The flower/seed-heads also come in a hodgepodge of shapes from, symmetrical little buttons to tall and noble turbans to frizzy, ragamuffins. They also make excellent cut-flowers. Needless to say, they produce lots of seeds and easily reseed themselves in the fall.

They are also an important pollinator species for butterflies, bees and birds. The flowers are often filled with beetles and other insects.

The complex geometry of its flower head would have delighted Buckminster Fuller. Life on his Spaceship Earth is more beautiful thanks to one of Mother Nature's finest achievements, American Basketflower. Come see them soon in all their purple reign.


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2) Prairie Artist of the Month - Sandy Fountain

I first saw Sandy Fountain’s painting of the Broadcast Hill meadow in 2023 and was immediately smitten by her work. She had captured the essence of the place in a way that I liked. I also knew Sandy from her volunteer work with the Native Plant Society of Texas. A couple of weeks ago, Sandy asked my permission to use one of my photos, taken in mid-May, for a new painting. (see first photo below) I was impressed again.

Sandy’s BIO: “I am happily retired after 34 years in the software industry. I have been an avid native plant person for 21 years. I am a volunteer through the Texas Master Naturalist program and the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT). I greatly enjoy native plant gardening, working at a Monarch Waystation, and visiting wild areas such as Tandy Hills. I started painting with acrylics 6 years ago where I often try to capture the beauty of nature that I witness. I especially love to capture beautiful landscapes and especially Texas landscapes. I also love to play with color, shapes and flow in my abstracts.”

Check out Sandy’s website HERE.

CLICK each image to view it un-cropped.

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3) Field Report - May

The big story of spring 2024 is rain. Lots of it. The trails have never really dried out. Aside from the aforementioned, American Basketflowers, Prairie Bishop and Indian Blankets welcomed all the rain and continued their superblooms. A visit to Broadcast Hill revealed some amazing, multi-colored, un-trampeled meadows of both, as you can see in the photos below.

By about mid-May when they started to fade away in most locations. It was a boon for insects and birds while it lasted. However, there are multiple other species starting to bloom with more on the way in June.

There is a lot to see here. CLICK each photo for best viewing.

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4) New Species Report - May

The City Nature Challenge helped bump up the species count by 50 new species ending the month at a total of 2,102. Here are a few of the notable new species found in May. You can check them all out on the Tandy Hills iNat Project Page HERE.

5) Yoga & Music On the Prairie

On May 6th, a very special yoga class with live music was held at Tandy Hills. This is the kind of positive event that we like to see here. Local musician and multi-instrumentalist, Daniel Katsuk, organized the event and played his music during the event. Katsuk was also a performer at Prairie Fest in 2009. Check out the Katsuk website HERE.

6) Drone, Drone on the Range

On May 17th, Fort Worth photographer and digital creator, Brian Luenser, took an amazing drone video at Tandy Hills. He had originally planned to shoot the video during the peak bloom period but, due to cloudy, wet weather, he had to settle for blue skies and LOTS of fading Indian Blankets. Still . . . this is an amazing 3-minute trip across the hills.

Brian Luenser had this to say:

I went to Tandy Hills Natural Area this afternoon to take advantage of the beautiful sky. This wonderful park was packed with crazy colorful flowers a week ago, but I was waiting for a pretty day to drone it. Wish I would have just droned it in the rain or wind. But it is still a beautiful landscape! Here are a few minutes of flying my sport drone here a bit ago.

Check out Brian’s other amazing videos on YouTube, HERE:

View fullsize

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07) Land management Update

Our teams of hired help, volunteers and Fort Worth Park & Rec employees were very busy in the month of May.

Phase One: A dozen people spent a full week ridding the View Street meadows of Hedge Parsley, Prickly Lettuce and Johnson grass before, they went to seed. It was tough work but we got about 90% of it before the rain came down. We filled about 50 large, 55 gallon bags. We even had help from 6 year-old, Adelaide who had fun helping her mom. (Adelaide is also, a 3-year veteran of the Manly Men Wild Women Hike.) Your generous donations helped pay for this time-sensitive effort. Donations accepted here:

Phase Two: Remove Pincushion flowers from Broadcast Hill. Also known as, Sweet Scabious (Sixalix atropurpurea), is one of the biggest threats to native prairies and eradicating it is one of our top priorities. The large, vigorous plants can completely overwhelm native prairies wiping out the bio-diversity. Big job but we got it done, roots and all and, without resorting to herbicide. Big thanks to Cody McCoy and team.

We also had help from Jared Hall and other FW Park & Rec employees who treated some large areas of invasive Prickly Lettuce with herbicide. Best news of all: a new team of interns are scheduled to start work at Tandy Hills in early June.

8) Prairie Sky / Star Party report

The May star party was rained out but, the Fort Worth Astronomical Society (FWAS) will be back on, Saturday, June 15th, 2024. Read the sky-watching commentary from FWAS rep, John McCrea, below. View the full 2024 PrairieSky / StarParty schedule HERE.

For our June 15th FWAS/Tandy Hills star party, we will have a combination of spring and summer constellations. The most popular can be seen in the night sky from about late March to late June. As we progress through the season some of the constellations added are Scorpius, Lyra, and Cygnus (in the northeast). The remaining are Ursa Major, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, and Hercules. The summer triangle (Vega, Deneb and Altair) will be visible.

The sun will set at about 8:39 PM on June 15th. The moon will be a 9-day old waxing gibbous in the constellations Virgo (the Virgin). There will be no planets visible during the star party. (Saturn will rise at 1:30 AM and Neptune will rise at 2:30 AM)

The globular cluster, Ω-Centauri will still be visible. It will be 5 degrees higher than Canopus was during our March 12th TH star party. It will be at 193O compass heading (south/southwest) or RA 13hr 28’, Dec -47O 37’.

9) Spotlight: Eco Blossom Nursery

I first met, Agnieszka “Anna” Hurst, in about 2010 when she had a vendor booth at Tandy Hills Prairie Fest. At the time, she was promoting her landscape business started in 2008 known as Happy Gardens, specializing in sustainable garden design and installation. In 2018, she added, Eco Blossom Nursery, an online, retail garden store. In those days, native plant nurseries were uncommon but in growing demand. Anna was one of the first in the DFW region to fulfill that demand.

Her nursery is a refreshing alternative to the usual places. Eco Blossom stocks hundreds of native and well-adapted plants species from Asclepias to Yucca. As stated on her website:

We believe that an outdoor space should be not only beautiful, but also sustainable, creative, practical and safe. We focus on landscaping that promotes biodiversity and creates wildlife habitats. We aim to create outdoor spaces that are an extension of the house.

Our goal is to work closely with the homeowner to deliver the outdoor space they want and need. We listen and then give advice. Our work is a thoughtful expression of the homeowners' wishes, needs, constraints and dreams.

IMPORTANTLY, Anna gives back 5% of sales to area organizations INCLUDING Friends of Tandy Hills. When you make a purchase from Eco Blossom, you will see a list choices. You know which one to select. Check out Anna’s informative website HERE and tell her I sent you.:

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10) Prairie Proverb

> Note: In 2024, all Prairie Proverbs will be from inspirational women.

“I paint flowers so they will not die.”

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Prairie Notes© is the official newsletter of Friends of Tandy Hills Natural Area, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. All content by Don Young except where otherwise noted.

Don Young

BEAUCOUPS OF BASKETFLOWERS — Friends of Tandy Hills (2024)
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