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Boerne Chapter

“Boerne Bean” finally gets some respect — it’s a new species

Several years ago when Jan Wrede and I were crawling down a narrow little side canyon off Cibolo Creek, she exclaimed, “Oh, there’s a Boerne Bean!” She was referring to a bean-like vine that trailed across the limestone ledges and up into the trees.

“What’s that? Never heard of it,” I responded. Then she told me the story of the “Boerne Bean,” so named by the late Kim Kuebel.

A person in a hat and glasses, doing field work, observing a plant and taking notes
In a narrow side canyon off Cibolo Creek, Bill Carr examines the vine he helped name. Carr also demonstrates that one characteristic of the leaves is that they will cling to clothing like Velcro. (Photo by Bill Ward)

Many years ago, maybe 30 or more, Kim Kuebel found a Kendall County vine he could not key out. The vine has leaves with three leaflets, elongate seed pods, and little pink blossoms, in a general way not dissimilar to many garden-variety bean vines.

He took a specimen of the vine to botanists at the University of Texas. According to Kim, they did not recognize the plant and dismissed it as an exotic bean brought into the county by man. Without any resolution to its identity, Kim called it the “Boerne Bean” for the rest of his life.

A vine with purple flowers
Leaves and flowers of Phaseolus texensis aka “Boerne Bean.” (Photo by Bill Ward)

By the time I met Kim Kuebel in the late 1990s, he was a semi-recluse, but such a gentle man and obviously the authority on native plants of Kendall County. Just mention a species, and he knew where it grew in the county. I wish I had gotten to know Kim a lot better. I do know he was smart. It is rumored that he once studied some ancient language akin to Sanskrit at the University of Texas.

When Jan Wrede came to the Cibolo Nature Center and got interested in the native vegetation of the Texas Hill Country, Kim Kuebel became her mentor on plants. In her first book, “Texans Love Their Land — A Guide to 76 Native Texas Hill Country Woody Plants,” Jan refers to Kim Kuebel as “my personal plant guru,” who gave her the courage to attempt the book. Even in the 2010 edition of Jan Wrede’s “Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of the Texas Hill Country,” Kim is mentioned in the first sentence of Acknowledgments.

I’m not sure why Kim got no help with the identification of his Boerne bean when he went to Austin, because at that time there apparently was an old specimen of that very vine in the University of Texas herbarium. It was assigned to the genus Phaseolus, but later, botanists disagreed on which species of Phaseolus the Hill Country vine represents.

A close up of purple flowers against a tree
Close up of “Boerne Bean” flower. (Photo by Bill Ward)

Recently, Alfonso Delgado-Salinas of the University of Mexico and Bill Carr of The Nature Conservancy of Texas found evidence that this vine from the Edwards Plateau is different from any described species of Phaseolus. In 2007, Delgado-Salinas and Carr published a paper introducing a new species, which they named Phaseolus texensis. Wouldn’t Kim Kuebel have been happy to see that paper.

Phaseolus texensis is known only from limestone canyons of the eastern and southern Edwards Plateau. The type specimen was collected in Kerr County along Highway 16 south of Kerrville.

Delgado-Salinas and Carr conclude that “Phaseolus texensis is a rather rare species that deserves protection, and therefore, considering human activities around the few localities where it has been collected, we recommend treating it as vulnerable.”

I wish Kim Kuebel were here to tell us all the places Phaseolus texensis occurs in Kendall County.

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason