Boerne Chapter

Fredericksburg Nature Center — big diversity of native plants in a small area

There were at least 65 different species of native plants in bloom when Delmar Cain and I visited the trails at the Fredericksburg Nature Center (FNC) in late October. This ten-acre jewel of a nature park on the southwestern edge of Fredericksburg is a great place for native-plant lovers to visit because of the high diversity of plants in one small area.

Landscape photo of a creek, bank full of yellow wildflowers
Wild goldenglow (Bidens laevis) blooming along Live Oak Creek at Fredericksburg Nature Center. (Photo by Bill Ward)

There are some native-plant species at the FNC not found in our area because the geology is different. During the Early Cretaceous, at the same time the Boerne region was a shallow-marine shelf, the Fredericksburg region was a land area where streams deposited sediment eroded from the Llano Uplift. Today, the Lower Cretaceous non-marine sandstone and conglomerate crop out at the FNC, and this bedrock weathers to relatively acidic soils. In the Boerne area, the bedrock of Lower Cretaceous marine limestone gives us calcareous soils.

The FNC grew out of Bill Lindemann’s desire to convince the Fredericksburg city council to set aside a natural area for birders. Bill found the perfect city-owned tract along Live Oak Creek adjacent to Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.

Cacti and small white flowers
White aster (Aster ericoides) among prickly pear and yucca at FNC. (Photo by Bill Ward)

Bill Lindemann was two-time President of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and he is a highly respected birder who also knows butterflies and dragon flies. He immediately recognized that this plot of land could be much more than a birding trail. It has the habitats to be home to a diverse fauna as well as a rich native flora. It is an ideal place for a nature center.

Luckily, the city had no other plans for these acres, and the mayor and councilmen liked Bill’s idea of developing nature trails there. With the help of the city and several members of the Fredericksburg Chapter of NPSOT, Bill began to develop the Fredericksburg Nature Center. Soon members of the Hill Country Master Naturalists and other volunteers joined in. The FNC was officially founded in 2000.

Today the ten acres has well-maintained trails through eleven distinct habitats: postoak savannah, wetland, riparian, old-growth live oak woods, native prairie, cedar brake, lake, mud flats, lake island, and springs and seeps.

The Friends of the Fredericksburg Nature Center has published a checklist for wildflowers and another for cacti, ferns, grasses, and trees. The wildflower checklist has 266 species with more soon to be added. There also are lists for the birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies.

The FNC has become the center for all sorts of nature activities, including a monthly lecture series and many school field trips and outdoor programs. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin has recognized the FNC as an affiliate organization.

Native-Plant Watch Makes Award

Last spring the Boerne Chapter established Native-Plant Watch, a program for assisting hands-on education about native plants in Boerne elementary schools. For this school year, the $500 award went to Donna Oates, a first-grade teacher at Kendall Elementary.

Mrs. Oates and her students will plant and maintain a garden of native plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. This will give the students insight into the interdependence among living organisms in the natural ecosystem.

They also plan to propagate native plants in their greenhouse. Students will be able to take plants home to grow in their own gardens.

Group of children in a classroom
Boerne Chapter President Delmar Cain and Education Chairman Kathy Ward with Donna Oates and her first-grade class at Kendall Elementary School. (Photo by Chris Ormiston)
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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