Gold Crew recently spent time at a property belonging to the Texas City Prairie Preserve, a 2300-acre coastal prairie nature preserve created by the Nature Conservancy in the 1990s. Our goal was to clear out a stand of invasive chinese tallow and, in doing so, restore a section of the prairie along the Texas City levee. Chinese tallow trees are considered invasive due to their ability to spread rapidly and persist despite efforts at removal. If a tree is cut down, more chinaberry plants can resprout from the cut surface, much like a zombie-tree version of the mythological Greek monster, Hydrilla.
However, tallow trees are not invincible! Armed with chainsaws, loppers, and handsaws we felled adult trees and cleared patches of saplings. Crew members carrying herbicide followed behind the sawyers and loppers to seal the cut surfaces, preventing these plants from resprouting. On days when the wind was too strong to safely chainsaw, we did trash collection.
While we enjoy the irony of killing trees in the name of conservation, we also appreciate the upside of conservation work: enjoying nature. The prairie we were restoring and the surrounding area is home to a good variety of birds, wildflowers, and insects. One of our crew members made friends with a female twolined walking stick. We spotted an osprey, brown pelicans, and gulls at our site and one of our members stumbled upon a duck and her nest of eggs (we avoided the area for the rest of our time there, so as not to distress momma too much). Dewberry patches were pervasive throughout the site, and we often stopped to snack. It’s wildflower season in Texas, and they are gorgeous. In addition to dewberry flowers, we also saw yellow lupine, blue-eyed grass, scarlet and blue pimpernels, Texas dandelions, lantana, thistle, red clover, showy pink evening primroses, pink Texas stars, vetch, and Seuss-like touch-me-nots.
We are all looking forward to going back, not only to see more prairie, but also to kick more chinaberry tushie!
Noel Lampazzi – Coastal Crew Member (Gold Crew)