Thursday, August 30, 2012

Purple Prose

Following the theme of last week’s post, let’s look at more late summer wildflowers –  blooms for this group are all  in the purple family, color-wise – Eryngo, Obedient Plant, and Gregg’s Mistflower,

First, Eryngo: Eryngium leavenworthii Torr. & Gray.  As described by Native Plant Information Network, (NPIN),  the Native Plant Database for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Eryngo is a prickly, showy annual with a leafy stem, blue or purple bloom in late summer, in fact almost the whole plant, which stands 1’ – 3’ tall, shows color (photo by Wayne Meyer).  Watch for it now in fields at HagermanNational Wildlife Refuge and along the roadsides in the area, striking against a backdrop of Snow-on-the Prairie or contrasting with Sunflowers. Eryngo looks like a thistle but is not; it is in the Carrot family.  The plants are deer resistant, for those whose gardens have unwanted deer visitors, and provide nectar for insects and seed for birds.

Obedient Plant:  Physostegia virginiana (L.) Benth.  Also called False Dragonhead and Fall Obedient Plant, NPIN says this plant is a perennial, with the typical square stems of the Mint family.  Visitors to the Refuge can see it blooming lavender, in the Native Plant Garden (photo by Sue Malnory).  Blooms may also be white to purple. This is a great plant to interest children in gardening, as the flowers can be turned on the stem and will stay in the new position for some time, hence the name, Obedient plant.  The plants are a nectar source for hummingbirds and butterflies and are deer resistant.

Gregg’s Mistflower:  Conoclinium greggii (Gray) Small.  Also in the Aster family, this plant can be seen in the Native Plant Garden (photo by Becky Goodman) at the Refuge and is a butterfly magnet. It is documented by NPIN as attracting Queen butterflies in Fall and as a larval food source for Rawsons Metalmark.  It has puffy lavender flowers heads, grows from 1’ – 3’ tall, blooms from spring to fall, spreads easily and unlike the others described above, provides deer browse. Mistflower may also be known as Palmleaf thoroughwort, Palm-leaf mistflower, Palm-leaf thoroughwort, Purple palmleaf mistflower, Purple palmleaf eupatorium.



Thursday, August 23, 2012


It must be August when you see Snow- on-the-Prairie!  Driving along Refuge Road, en route to Hagerman NWR, this plant with cool appearing green and white leaves actually does look like a light dusting of snow where it is growing en masse.  There are actually two plants, Euphorbia bicolor Engelm. & Gray, and Snow-on- the-Mountain, Euphorbia marginata Pursh; NPIN, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database,  says that the two are often confused.

As members of the Spurge Family, both plants have a milky sap that is irritating to humans with sensitive skin, as well as to the eyes, and is toxic to cattle. Poinsettias are members of the same family. Growing 1 - 4 feet tall, in poor soils, the plants multiply by throwing seed, described by Dorothy Thetford in Wildflowers-of-Texas. Thetford says, “This ballistic dispersal of seeds explains the scattered arrangement of plants on the prairie.”

Both plants are annuals in the spurge family.  The actual flowers are tiny white blossoms, surrounded by the green and white bracts.  The bract of bicolor (in photos)  is narrower than that of marginata.  According to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension  Snow-on-the-Mountain grows mainly in Central Texas, as well as north to Montana and Minnesota and south to Mexico, and Snow-on-the-Prairie mainly in the eastern third of Texas.  NPIN shows a range including Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas.  The bloom time is July – October.  We'll take anything that even helps us think "cool" at this time of year!

Post and photos by Dick and Sue Malnory

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hagerman Remembered

By Peggy Redshaw and Jerry Lincecum, 
with Photos by John Ramsey

History Day at Hagerman, held July 29 at the Wildlife Center, drew an audience of more than fifty, but only a handful were former residents of the town  that Lake Texoma swallowed up in 1944.  Denison Dam was completed in Dec. 1943, and the coffer dam that had held back the waters of Red River during construction was breached in Jan.  Three months later, the town of Hagerman was under about a hundred feet of water.  It had already been reduced to a skeleton, as numerous houses and other buildings were relocated.  Nowadays, when the lake waters recede (as they did last summer), one can see the remains of a few foundations on the bottom of Big Mineral.

Former residents of Hagerman, Texas

Those present for the discussion listened carefully to Jean Shires Hughes, whose family lived in the MKT section house in Hagerman.  They had been among the last to leave, since the railroad wanted Hughes to remain there as long as possible.  Jean recounted in remarkable detail a typical morning she spent as a child making her way through Hagerman, greeted by residents and merchants who were happy to have her stop by and visit.

Jean Shires Hughes points out  features of the town of Hagerman in the History Exhibit at the Refuge.

The family of Bob Stephens was also late in moving out of Hagerman, and he recalled that they drove through some rising water on the road as they departed.
Claud Crook spoke of entering first grade at Hagerman School in the fall of 1943 and then, after the rising of the muddy waters, having to transfer to Pottsboro in January.  Melvin Brown remembered the German POWs who worked to clear brush from the area in 1943.  Joel Bassett has stories from his grandfather, who constructed the POW camp near the spillway, as well as documents he has researched on the project.
Melba (Lewter) Yankovich recalled the presence of US Army troops from Camp Howze, whose job was blowing up the bridges on county roads that were soon to be under the lake.  In fact, the lake filled so quickly that not all the bridges were demolished as planned.
          The Friends of Hagerman, who organized the History Day program, consider it very successful.  Plans are underway for follow-up interviews with some of the former residents of Hagerman.  We hope to share more of their stories in future blog posts.

Note:  Links to additional articles about Hagerman, Texas can be found on the Refuge page of the Friends website.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Second Saturday Programs for August 11, 2012

Invasives at the Refuge will be the topic for Second Saturday program at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, on August 11.  The program will begin at 10 a.m. in the Visitor Center meeting room.

An invasive species is non-native to a particular ecosystem and spreads or reproduces rapidly and causes harm to the environment, human health, and or the economy.  North Texas residents have all been reading and hearing about one invasive species, the zebra mussel.  Refuge visitors may see or hear large groups of feral hogs (see photo below, by Carl Hill) and their detrimental effect on the wildlife habitat.  Learn which other plants and animals are on the list of invasive species and what is and can be done.

Presenting the program will be Saul Petty, who is the Invasive Species Biologist at the Refuge. Petty moved to Hagerman in late July 2010 from Louisiana, where he worked for the US Forest Service.  He received a Bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M – College Station in Horticulture and a Master’s degree in Forestry. Petty’s duties include providing guidance and technical assistance regarding invasive species management to refuges throughout Texas and Oklahoma.

Also on August 11, youngsters ages 4-10 are invited to the Second Saturday for Youth program, entitled Fun with Fossils.  The program includes nature crafts and activities and will be led by Katie Palmer; it begins at 10 a.m.  Children under age 6 must be accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult.  To assure adequate supplies for each youth, advance registration is required and can be made by calling the refuge at 903-786-2826.  The youth program meets in the Audio Visual Classroom, FOH Center.

All Second Saturday activities are free of charge and open to the public.  Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Big Mineral Arm of Lake Texoma, at 6465 Refuge Road, Sherman, Texas, 75092.  For more information, call the Refuge or visit

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Watching Wildlife from a Boat

By Wayne Meyer, PhD

            Recently Hagerman NWR announced some proposed changes to the rules for boating on the refuge.  If the changes go forward, motorless boats will be allowed to float upstream on Big Mineral Creek all year round.  Although not many people are likely to take advantage of this opportunity, I thought I’d write about some of my experiences on Big Mineral Creek to try to encourage a few more people to take advantage of the new opportunity.
            For many years boating has been allowed in Big Mineral Creek from mid-March until the end of September.  In a canoe or kayak, boats that typically draft only a few inches, it is possible to travel more than a mile upstream.  You need only go a few hundred yards to get away from almost all people and now you are by yourself with nature.  I have frequently been able to float quietly up to Wood Ducks and Barred Owls, much closer than I would have been able to get on foot.  A canoeist has a very different silhouette than a standing person, so the animals tend to be less frightened.  I also suspect that the animals are aware that a canoe cannot leave the bed of the stream, so they’ll sit in a tree and watch you go by.

            There are several species of birds that you can see more easily by boat than you ever will by foot or on the tour route.  Black-crowned Night-herons breed on the refuge most years.  They tend to feed at night and stay well hidden during the day.  We feel fortunate if we can find a Black-crown once each summer on the weekly bird census, but I see one almost every time I float up the creek in the summer.  Wood Ducks are usually very hard to locate on the tour route because they prefer to remain under cover unless there is a very lucrative food source in one of the impoundments.  I’ve never failed to see several Woodies on the creek and they often flush just a little way downstream so that I can see them multiple times if I move slowly and quietly.  Each spring there are some warblers that can be heard singing from the depths of the forest bottom that won’t come out to the edges where non-boaters would be able to find them.
            Of course, other animals can ONLY be found along the creek bottoms because of habitat restrictions.  Last week I went up Big Mineral to Beaver Creek and saw at least 50 river cruisers ( a family of dragonflies) while in all my censuses this spring and summer I had not seen a single one.  The reason, of course, is the water.  River cruisers, as you should guess from their name, tend to fly along streams and rivers and almost never leave the shade, so they are very unlikely to be seen out on the lakeshores.  Rick Cantu has also seen Sanddragons and Shadowdragons that will never be found away from the water and trees (one of these years I’ll find them for myself).  One of these days I’ll run into some of the River Otters that are increasing on the refuge.  Even the plants are special; the bottomland habitat has many unique species of plants that will not be visible if you don’t get in a boat and explore.
            One special aspect of the refuge makes boating more interesting for me, the way things change as the lake goes up and down.  In 2007 when Lake Texoma went over the spillway at Denison Dam (642 ft.) I put in my canoe at Big Mineral Picnic Area and floated directly over the then new bridge over big Mineral Creek.  As I went over, I was not able to reach the guardrails with my paddle.  That year I could canoe between the trees, an experience that is truly amazing.  I was able to get upstream almost all the way to Meadow Pond, 3.6 miles of winding paddling one way.  That year there was enough water to canoe Harris Creek for more than a mile.  Last year I didn’t even bother putting in, although there was enough water to go a short distance on Big mineral Creek.
            Why don’t you think about boating at the refuge this summer, or maybe we’ll run into each other this winter, provided the rules changes go through.  I guarantee your experience of the refuge will be very different from the water surface than it is from the road surface.

Photo:  Canoeing, by Ronnie Barron

ED NOTE:  Don't miss Canoeing 101, a dry-land presentation by Aris Tsamis, from Mariner Sails, Inc.,  at 3 pm, Saturday, October 13  - Super Saturday  at the Refuge!