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Boerne Chapter

Plan Long Term—Plant a NICE! Tree

By Delmar Cain

by Delmar Cain — Boerne Chapter, Native Plant Society of Texas
Published in the Boerne Star on November 8, 2013

It is the fall of the year, the weather is cooler and it is time to think about trees.  Fall color presages falling leaves and rings the starting bell for falling limbs, if you are into tree trimming.  But fall is also the best time to plant trees.  More moisture and less heat give newly planted trees a fighting chance to grow the strong roots that are needed to help make it through the tough times that are going to come.

A tree that is native to Val Verde County, Texas and northern Mexico should be able to endure rough times.  For that reason the Boerne Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) selected the Texas pistachio or Texas pistache (Pistacia mexicana) as its NICE (Natives Instead of Common Exotics) Plant of the Month for November.

Growing along the limestone cliffs of gullies and ravines in well-drained soils, this tree prefers full sun, but may accept partial sun.  It is drought resistant, but it does need excellent drainage.  If you have a hillside location, consider locating a Texas pistachio there.  It might be at risk in a flat area with heavy rain over an extended period.

As a member of the Sumac Family, one can expect a bit of color at some point in the year.  For the Mexican pistachio (another of its common names) that color comes in the spring.  Although it is evergreen, the new leaves it puts on in the spring are reddish, but turn green with age.

The female Texas pistachio also blooms with small, white flowers in the spring and summer.  After the flowers the female tree produces clusters of red berries or drupes, which turn black as they dry.  As this is not a common tree, planting a male tree in the area would be wise.

Most Mexican pistachio trees will not grow taller than 10 to 20 feet. Occasionally in just the right spot it might grow taller.  The Wildflower Center in Austin and several other web sources indicate that it is deer resistant.  Comments from local NPSOT members indicate that one would do well to protect the new growth for several years.

Finding a Texas pistachio this fall might require some searching.  I have been told that some growers will have this tree available in the spring at the Mostly Native Plant sale sponsored by the Cibolo Nature Center.  If you do search for the tree, remember that the Texas pistachio and the Chinese pistachio are not identical.  The Chinese pistachio is definitely not native to Texas.

If you are interested in seeing a Texas pistache, you will find one at the Boerne Civic Center at 820 Adler Road in Boerne.  It will be on your left in the second median as you drive toward the circle at the front entrance.

After you have seen the Texas pistache. take additional time to look at the other native plants in the beds around the Center.  Gayle Stakes, the Center Supervisor, and her helpers have done a wonderful job of maintaining many of the native plants that were planted with the original landscaping.

In the beds you will find autumn sage (Salvia greggii), blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum), and fall aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium).  There are also Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), Spanish oak (Quercus buckleyi) and some of the prettiest and most productive big-tooth maples (Acer grandidentatum) in Boerne.

On one of the days that I was there, the healthy and vibrant blue mistflower plants were dotted with queen butterflies.  A handful of monarch butterflies were sipping nectar and adding weight for their journey to Mexico.  Several species of sulphur butterflies were visiting the autumn sage.

You will be doing yourself a favor if you go by in the next few days.  If you happen to see them, tell Gayle, and the crew, James Hester, David Pellosma and Billy Cass, that you appreciate their work in keeping Boerne beautiful with native plants.

Arbor Week (November 4-9) is still being celebrated in Boerne.  Check out the remaining events on the Cibolo Nature Center website at:  http://www.cibolo.org/calendar   One event on November 9th will detail how to plant and care for trees.  What a timely event for the fall and this tree-planting time.

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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