Best of 2011
Dec 28, 2011Public
Photo: Let's review some of the best moments of 2011....
Photo: January took me to Wood County and the virgin bottomland hardwoods of Little Sandy NWF.... Snow on the ground and in the air.... Riding four-wheelers through the muddy bottom.... Finding our state champ overcup oak (Quercus lyrata) (pictured) and a new champ bottomland post oak (Quercus similis)!
Photo: March winds swept us west, through Central Texas to the only known grove of Mexican white oaks (Quercus polymorpha) in the U.S., including this national champion. We spent a couple hours counting and measuring these oaks, all confined to the banks and stream bottom of this short canyon....
Photo: ....With a lunch break at the famous Dolan Falls, on a ranch owned by the Texas Nature Conservancy. This section of the Devil's River is one of the most pristine in Texas!....
Photo: ....The 'album cover' shot: Paul prepares to execute a backflip, but Mark can't bear to watch. Pete stares into the middle distance, about where he left the minivan idling with the keys in it.
Photo: ....This trip also took us to Fort Davis for a remeasurement of our national champion Rio Grande cottonwood (Populus deltoides ssp. wislizeni) -- just one month before the infamous Rockhouse fire destroyed it....
Photo: ....This tree had been a national champion since 1976, but it was no match for a wildfire that burned at speeds over 15 mph, destroyed 24 buildings, and covered more than 314,000 acres before it was over a month later. I guess this part belongs on our 'worst of 2011' list instead....
Photo: ....At least we had the good sense to measure this big RG cottonwood at the Fort Davis National Historical Site nearby, which is now our national champ for the species!
Photo: The milder temps in April got us out to check on an old friend, shown here with owner Jody Bonner.... This national champion gum bully (formerly bumelia) (Sideroxylon lanuginosum) hadn't been seen since it was crowned champ in 1964!....
Photo: ....Jody even produced the sign to prove it. It had grown to 108" in circumference in those 47 years and is the national champion (again!) for the species!
Photo: April also brought us to downtown San Antonio to locate several very old nominees, like this multi-trunked anacua (Ehretia anacua).... The most fun was navigating the throng of festival goers on the first night of Fiesta!
Photo: ....We also got over to Caldwell County to check on our listed champion green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica). But is it green ash, or is it Mexican ash? A new paper from BRIT describes the subtle differences, but we still couldn't tell for sure this early in the spring.
Photo: May started the talk about an ongoing drought and also took us to Bastrop State Park with Superintendent, Todd McClanahan -- just a couple months before the drought helped fuel the worst wildfire in Texas history, burning 95% of the park, along with 1,500 homes. Did this big loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) survive?
Photo: June had us on the road again, this time to the Chalk Ridge Environmental Center on the banks of the Lampasas River. We succeeded in finding this vine-covered Texas buckeye (Aesculus glabra var. arguta) that hadn't been seen since 1983!...
Photo: ....This is what it looked like back then, so it was a good thing we had the old map and someone who could read it!
Photo: August's unrelenting heat didn't slow us down, with a whirlwind trip to Amarillo and Palo Duro Canyon, where we visited this TP&W-owned ranch on the rim of the canyon, a place nicknamed the "Rockin' G"....
Photo: ....The ranch brand. If you're in the market, it's for sale!....
Photo: ....Nearby, we found this new champion oneseed juniper (Juniperus monosperma) and a contender Mohr's oak (Quercus mohriana)....
Photo: ....But the highlight was standing on this point along the rim of Palo Duro Canyon with the best view on the High Plains!
Photo: Later in Van Horn after a great meal (mine, the pecan-crusted pork chop and house-made scalloped potatoes) at the El Capitan hotel,...
Photo: ...we watched the best fireworks show west of the Pecos over the desert near Van Horn!
Photo: September took us to San Jacinto County, where Gretchen admired one of her favorites, a swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii) that hadn't been measured since 1968!....
Photo: ....But the best 'find' of the trip was this long-lost state champion nutmeg hickory (Carya myristiciformis), which hadn't been heard from since 1974. This one took some real detective work!
Photo: Cooler temperatures in November brought us to the Big Slough wilderness in Houston County to search for this old champion planertree (water-elm) (Planera aquatica)....