Boerne Chapter

Setting A Good Example

By Delmar Cain

Last week I had occasion to revisit the new Patrick Heath Public Library, opened by the City of Boerne on June 4, 2011. It was not the first time that I had been to the site. My first visit occurred on a Saturday morning almost a year earlier when I met with others, far more faithful than I to Paul Barwick’s request for volunteers, to try to clear a bit more of the invasive waxleaf ligustrum from a fence line on the acreage where the new library was under construction.

Yellow flowers in a flower bed

It’s amazing what a good feeling that you get from cutting an invasive specimen, whose companions have taken over acres without invitation. One feels downright righteous. But I was also amused to know that a request for men to bring their power tools to an event is just as effective as asking men to bring their guns for a bit of target practice. In any event a good group that included Carolyn and Stan Walden, Ann Dietert, Bill Ward, Chuck Janzow, Betty Dunn, Billy and Michelle Brown and Paul Barwick made real inroads that day into the ligustrum Maginot Line that had choked out almost everything except the large live oaks.

But this article is not about the past but about the present and the future. And I will leave it to others to discuss the library building, which in my view is exceptional in its planning and design. This article is to give a bit of applause to those in charge who thoughtfully considered and set a wonderful example in using native plants in the landscaping around the library grounds. Already the trees, shrubs and grasses planted this year have created visible pleasure and will continue to do so for years to come.

If you haven’t been to the library yet, I urge you to do so on your next trip to town. And if you don’t have time to go inside at least spend a few minutes and drive around the circle or walk around the parking lot. It will be one way to observe Texas Native Plant Week, which this year extends from October 16th-22nd.

Little mounds of plans in mulched bed with purple tube-like flowers.
Mexican oregano.

Take a look at the evergreen yellow-flowered shrubs, damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana), that are in full bloom, and also at the violet tube flowers of the Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens), that are showing off for the fall. And of course the old standby esparanza or yellow bells (Tecoma stans) are full of blooms and head high.

This is also a good time to look at the native grasses that are about to strut their stuff. The gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaries) will send up its airy purple spikelets before winter, the little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) will bloom and turn red, and the Lindheimer muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri) will produce its silvery seedheads that will rise to a height of five feet and maybe higher.

Don’t forget to take a look at the newly planted trees for a future reference. The retama or palo verde (Parkinsonia texana) is already showing its yellow blooms after the recent rains. The chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) will grow to a height of 40-60 feet and will have yellow fall color. The bigtooth maples (Acer grandidentatum), provided through the generosity of the Lende Foundation and the Bigtooth Maples for Boerne Project, will provide wonderful yellow or red foliage in the fall.

Landscaped yard with bright yellow flowers and a tree.
Retama and yellow bells.

In the spring we can look forward to seeing the anacacho orchid tree (Bauhinia lunarioides), the Texas redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) and the roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii) announcing the beginning of a new growing year with their colorful blooms.

In the future I will want to watch the continuing growth of the crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) and the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) as they extend their beauty over the summer and into the fall.

I have not listed everything. Some of the surprises you can discover for yourself. I think that you will agree that Paul Barwick, Special Projects Director, was leading in the right direction that day he led us in helping to clear another chunk of the waxleaf ligustrum. Now that the area is dotted with a variety of Texas natives, I hope you will agree that those responsible for the new library have given us a wonderful gift that will or should take a prominent place, along with the Cibolo Nature Center, the River Road Park and Trails and the Bigtooth Maples for Boerne project, whenever there is need to list or discuss the noteworthy and exceptional assets of our community.

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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