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San Antonio Chapter

Increased Climate Variability and the Impact on Native and Invasive Plants

February 2023 Presentation by Cheryl Hamilton

Cheryl HamiltonClimate variability is a game-changer in the increasing die-off of native plants and the proliferation of invasive plants. Scientists are tracking the life-cycle changes of plants and the species that rely upon them. They are merging scientific and traditional knowledge and are assessing the vulnerability of forests and natural areas. This program will highlight the impacts of climate change on native and invasive plants and provide up-to-date information on proposed solutions.

Cheryl has been a member of the San Antonio Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas since 2008 and has also been an Alamo Area Master Naturalist since 2007. Cheryl co-founded the Balcones Satellite of the Invaders of Texas Program in 2010. Since that time, teams of volunteer citizen scientists have eradicated more than 200,000 invasive plants from city, state and national parks in the San Antonio area. They have also created demonstration native plant and pollinator gardens. In 2011 Cheryl received the Outstanding Citizen Scientist Award from the Texas Invasive Plants and Pest Council (TIPPC) and the NPSOT President’s Award of Excellence. In 2011 Cheryl received the Outstanding Citizen Scientist Award from the Texas Invasive Plants and Pest Council (TIPPC) and the NPSOT President’s Award of Excellence. In 2015, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Obama for contributing more than 4,000 volunteer hours to the master naturalist program.

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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