Scientific Field Trips


FT 1 - B & B - Botany and Barbeque - Palmetto State Park
Saturday, August 13, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Mark W. Bierner - The University of Texas; Email:
Limit: 30
Lunch: on your own at Kreuz’ Market

Palmetto State Park, named for the dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) found in its swamps, is an unusual botanical area that resembles the tropics more than Central Texas. It is a 270-acre riparian refuge located where the ranges of eastern and western species merge, resulting in very diverse local flora and fauna. Gonzales, established in 1825, was the farthest west Anglo settlement until the close of the Texas Revolution.

In 1831, the Mexican government sent a six-pound cannon to Gonzales as protection against the Indians. This cannon was used in the “Come and Take It” Battle on October 2, 1835, when the first shot of the Texas Revolution was fired. A few months after the first shot, men and boys from the region gathered in Gonzales and sent the only reinforcements ever received at the Alamo.

In a State known for outstanding barbeque, few places can surpass Kreuz Market, located in Lockhart. For lunch you will enjoy beef brisket, pork chops, sausage, and(or) ribs served on elegant sheets of butcher paper. Water will be provided for the Palmetto State Park visit. You should bring a pack, sunscreen and insect repellent, and wear comfortable walking shoes, a hat, and sunglasses. Birders might want to bring binoculars, and don’t forget your camera.

El Marko Note: You might need a brewski or twoski to “warsh that BBQ on down” and a lot of soap and water when you’re done to “rinch your hands.”

FT 2 Useful Wild Plants of McKinney Falls State Park

Sunday, August 14 8:00 am – 12:00 noon
Scooter Cheatham, Useful Wild Plants Inc; Email:
Lynn Marshall, Useful Wild Plants Inc
Limit: 20
Lunch: No

The Useful Wild Plants (UWP) Project sets a standard for studying plant uses throughout the world. The multi-volume work titled The Useful Wild Plants of Texas, the Southeastern and Southwestern United States, the Southern Plains, and Northern Mexico is the definitive economic botany study for the southern half of the United States and northern Mexico. More than three decades of intensive interdisciplinary research have gone into the project, and nothing comparable has been done elsewhere. The first goal of the project is to complete and publish a comprehensive 12-volume encyclopedia that describes more than 4,000 Texas plants, discusses in detail their past, present, and future value, and provides color photographs and distribution maps for each species. McKinney Falls State Park, with its miles of hiking trails and variety of habitats, provides an ideal setting for a Useful Wild Plants trek.

A brief walk toward the falls opens up to an expansive floor of limestone and volcanic rock dating back some 80 million years. Large trees in this area include Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), Pecan (Carya illinoiensis), Arizona Walnut (Juglans major), and Soapberry (Sapindus saponaria). Along the trail are rock shelters that were once used by Native Americans. Remains of less primitive living are down the trail, where parts of the Thomas McKinney homestead and Grist Mill still stand.

Water will be provided. You should bring a pack, sunscreen and insect repellent, and wear comfortable walking/hiking shoes, a hat, and sunglasses. Birders might want to bring binoculars, and don’t forget your camera.


Sunday, August 14 - 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Mark W. Bierner, The University of Texas, Email:
Limit: 30
Lunch: Yes

The Pedernales River is the focal point of the park, but trails pass through upland areas with oak (Quercus buckleyi a
nd Quercus fusiformis) and juniper (Juniperus ashei) woodlands and lowland drainage areas heavily wooded with pecan (Carya illinoinensis), elm (Ulmus crassifolia), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), walnut (Juglans microcarpa), and hackberry (Celtis laevigata). Ash (Fraxinus texensis), buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) grow on the terraces adjacent to the river. The park is home to the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) from March through July and the indigenous Rufous-crowned Sparrow (Aimophila ruficeps) year-round.

Becker Vineyards was established in 1992 on a site of native Mustang grapes (Vitis mustangensis). Forty-six acres of French vines with sixteen different varietals were planted in a mixture of deep sand and are watered with water welled from limestone formations 300 feet beneath the surface. The winery, located in a 19th century German stone barn reproduction and surrounded by grazing quarterhorses, peach orchards, and fields of native wildflowers and lavender, is 10,040 square feet with a storage capacity of 64,000 gallons and fermenting capacity of 35,000 gallons.

In addition to tours and wine tasting, we will enjoy a box lunch picnic on the grounds of the vineyard. Water will be provided for the Pedernales Falls State Park visit. You should bring a pack, sunscreen and insect repellent, and wear comfortable walking shoes, a hat, and sunglasses. Birders might want to bring binoculars, and don’t forget your camera.

El Marko Note: The Claret at Becker Vineyards “drinks on down real good.”

FT 4  Central Texas Spring-Fed Rivers: From Lindheimer's Paradise to Endangered Species

Sunday, August 14, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Jackie M. Poole, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept, Email:
Limit: 20
Lunch: on your own

Large spring-fed rivers between Austin and San Antonio are important to Texas botany: the "Father of Texas botany", Ferdinand Lindheimer, lived on the banks of one (the Guadalupe River at New Braunfels), and the very rare Texas wild rice (Zizania texana) continues to hold on in another (the Comal River, at San Marcos). They are also a great place to cool off on a Texas summer afternoon.This field trip, led by Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept. rare plant botanist Jackie Poole, will first go to New Braunfels to visit the Lindheimer Home, where Lindheimer lived for decades in the 1800s while botanizing and publishing the local German-language newspaper.

Then, following an early lunch, the group will proceed to the San Marcos River to "tube" the uppermost part just below the springs. ("Tubing" is floating down the river in inner tubes, in swimming suits.) You'll get to see Zizania texana and other aquatics while Jackie explains the ecology and multiple conservation problems of aquifer-fed aquatic ecosystems in central Texas and the specific problems of the Texas wild rice.

Bring swimming suits or shorts, T-shirt, and (extra) shoes you can get wet and dirty for tubing (these are necessary!), and sun protection (sunscreen, hat, and/or wet-able shirt etc.); rustic clothes-changing facilities are available at tube-rental. Water will be provided.

FT 5 Blanco River Botany – Central Texas limestone endemic

Sunday, August 14, 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Bill Carr, The Nature Conservancy of Texas; Email:
Limit: 10
Lunch: on own

Nature Conservancy botanist Bill Carr will lead a small group onto the private Halifax Ranch along the Blanco River in Blanco County. This 3300-acre ranch is home to about 400 plant taxa, including 17 Texas endemics, 1 globally-rare (G2) shrub, 6 quasi-rare (G3) taxa), and at least 10 oddball disjuncts / regional rarities. The area includes typical upland Edwards Plateau vegetation on limestone, but of especial interest are the lovely canyons along and near the Blanco River. Major habitats include mesic limestone canyons, xeric south-facing cliff faces, spring / seep zones, and sandy river terraces /gravel bars maintained by a major flood-prone stream.

The hike will not be strenuous and will be mostly in the morning, but heat can nonetheless be intense, so hats, sunscreen, and a small daypack to carry water (provided) will be needed. Footware appropriate for rough, rocky terrain should be worn, but walking shorts will be OK. There will be the opportunity to cool off in the river near the end of the walk for those so inclined.

Lunch will follow at a typical Texas barbecue restaurant (vegetarian available) before returning to Austin mid-afternoon.

FT 6 Balcones Canyonlands Limestone Grotto and Canyon Flora: Hamilton Pool and West Cave

Sunday, August 14 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Mark Mayfield, Kansas State University; Email:
Limit: 24
Lunch: Box Lunch

The dissected eastern and southern edges of the limestone Edwards Plateau are known as the Balcones Canyonlands. The canyons of this area harbor a fascinating combination of endemic, disjunct, and widespread species that add to the already unique Edwards Plateau flora of surrounding uplands. In some areas, perennial springs give rise to streams that plunge over limestone cliffs into beautiful mesic “grottos” with plunge pools and narrow canyons downstream.

This tour will visit two such areas in far western Travis County near the Pedernales River. After a stop along a beautiful section of the Pedernales River, the group will take a tour of the canyon woodland and grotto of the small West Cave Preserve. The rest of the day will be spent at the larger Hamilton Pool county park, which includes a very large plunge pool (a favorite local swimming hole—participants so inclined are welcome to take advantage of it) and a perennial stream in a wooded canyon with a good trail that runs nearly a mile down to the river.

Relatively easy walking. Birding can be good here. Participants should bring hats, sunscreen, small day-packs to carry water (which will be provided), and sturdy walking shoes.

FT 7 Early Tertiary Floras of Central Texas

Sunday, August 14, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Gary Upchurch, Texas State University San Marcos; Email:
Limit: 20
Lunch: Box Lunch

The Early Tertiary (Paleocene—Eocene) had the warmest temperatures of the past 65 million years. During the Early Tertiary tropical and paratropical forests were widespread in the southeastern US. These forests showed a diversity of taxa typical of modern tropical and subtropical floras, such as Lauraceae, woody Fabaceae, and Arecaceae, intermixed with elements typical of modern temperate floras, such as Fagaceae. Early Tertiary floras from the southeastern US have been and continue to be the subject of much research on leaf systematics and paleoclimate. Leaf megafossils from some localities are noteworthy for their preservation cuticular anatomy and epiphyllous fungi.

We will collect leaf megafossils from one or more localities in the Wilcox Group of central Texas to sample the diversity of these forests. Participants should bring a rock hammer, backpack, and other collecting gear, and are urged to wear jeans, boots, sunscreen, insect repellant, and a hat. Newspaper, tissue, acrylic plastic spray, boxes, and drinking water will be provided. Participants should come prepared for high temperatures, bright sun, and possible encounters with snakes and insects.

FT 8 Ferns of the Central Texas Area

Sunday, August 14, 7:00 am – 5:00 pm
Jim Blassingame, South Plains College; Email:
Jack Stanford, Howard Payne College,
Laura Sánchez, Natural Resources Fort Hood
Limit: 25
Lunch: Box Lunch

We will visit two sites representing two different ecoregions in the central Texas area. Our first stop will be Inks Lake State Park, in the Llano Uplift region. This is an area of pink granite outcroppings with a unique flora. Some species that we will see here include Astrolepis sinuata, Cheilanthes lindheimeri, Cheilanthes tomentosa, Pellaea ovata, Pellaea wrightiana, Isoetes lithophila, Isoetes melanopoda, Selaginella arenicola, Selaginella peruviana, and Woodsia obtusa.

After lunch we will go on a tour of West Cave Preserve, which is in the Canyonlands of the Edwards Plateau. At West Cave, we will visit a sheltered limestone canyon that has a 40 foot waterfall. Some species that we will see here include Adiantum capillus-veneris, Anemia mexicana, Argyrochosma dealbata, Cheilanthes alabamensis, and Thelypteris ovata.

You will need to wear sturdy shoes and bring a hat, sunscreen, and insect repellant, and a small day pack to carry water, which will be provided.

FT 9 Bryophytes and Lichens of the Texas Hill Country

Sunday, August 14, 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Ann Rushing, Baylor University; Email:
Bob Egan, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Limit: 25
Lunch: Box Lunch

On this full day field trip, sponsored by the American Bryological and Lichenological Society, we will travel by bus to various localities near Austin representative of central Texas habitats, including Bastrop State Park and Hamilton Pool County Park. Bryophytes and lichens will both be observed during the trip. Limited collecting may be permitted in state parks. Temperatures in Texas in August may reach 100F by mid-afternoon. Participants should bring sunscreen and wear comfortable hiking shoes and cool clothing.

FT 10 Jewel of the Post Oak Belt: Bogs and Xeric Sands of the Gus Engeling WMA

Sunday, August 14 6:30 am – 8:00 pm
Walter Holmes, Baylor University; Email:
Jason Singhurst, Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept, Email:
Limit: 20
Lunch: Box Lunch

The furthest-west well developed bogs in Texas occur in the post oak belt, which is in many ways the transition from East Texas to Central Texas. Texas’s well known and unique sandyland flora is also well developed in parts of the area. The two botanists who perhaps know this area the best will take participants to see both floras at the Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area, a true botanical jewel near Palestine, Texas.

Upon arrival, we will take a small walk through a beautiful natural post oak savanna hillside seepage bog. Lunch around noon will find us at the Beaver Pond board walk/observation platform. Then we will walk through the Carrizo Sand Formation Xeric flora, merging into the edge of the large Andrew's Quaking Bog. The bog flora at the WMA includes at least 130 species, including the rare Chapman's yellow eyed grass (Xyris chapmanii) and endemic roughstem aster (Aster puniceus subsp. scabricaulis), while the xeric sand hill flora has over 100 species, including Mohlenbrock sedge (Cyperus grayioides) and rough seed flame flower (Talinum rugospermum), which will be flowering just as we depart. A total of 931 species have been documented for the WMA.

We will have supper in a restaurant on the drive back to Austin.

Notes: The Gus Engeling WMA is close to 4 hours drive from Austin, so this will be a quite long day—but worth every minute of it! The distance not only means that almost 8 hours will be spent on the road, but also that the botanizing will be from 10:30 AM until about 3 PM, quite hot parts of the day, and in largely unshaded habitats. Abundant water will be provided (bring a small daypack to carry water), but participants should come prepared for intense sun and heat: hats, sunscreen, and other sun-wear. Footware appropriate for boggy ground is recommended.

FT 11 Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

Monday, August 15, 8:00 am – 12:00 noon
Mark W. Bierner, The University of Texas, Email:
Limit: 30
Lunch: No

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is an urban natural area that was founded in 1974 to protect 227 acres of pristine Texas Hill Country and to provide nature education programs. Two and one-half miles of hiking trails pass through woodland, grassland, and streamside habitats, home to hundreds of native plants and animals. Trails meanders through Spanish Oak (Quercus buckleyi) and Ashe Juniper (Juniperus ashei) woodlands down to a waterfall, plunge pool and riparian forest with tall cottonwoods (Populus deltoids), sycamores (Platanus occidentalis), and willows (Salix nigra).

Wild Basin is also home to two endangered species of bird, the Black-capped Vireo (Vireo atricapillus) and the Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia), which nest there from March/April through July. Water will be provided. You should bring a pack, sunscreen and insect repellent, and wear comfortable walking/hiking shoes, a hat, and sunglasses. Birders might want to bring binoculars, and don’t forget your camera.

El Marko Note: Insect repellent is a good thing “because them Texas skeeters’ll darn near tote ya’ off.”

FT 12 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Plant Conservation, Landscape Restoration, and Information Networking
Tuesday, August 16 8:00 am – 12:00 noon
Damon Waitt, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Email:
Limit: 30
Lunch: No

Founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson and the late Helen Hayes, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to protecting and preserving North America’s native plants and natural landscapes. The mission of the Wildflower Center is to educate people about the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants. The grounds include several hundred species of plants native to the Edward’s Plateau in naturalistic, traditional and formal designs, and one and a half miles of interpretive trails through an oak-juniper savanna and ecological restoration laboratory.

Your behind scenes tour will be led by three of the Wildflower Center’s senior staff: Dr. Damon Waitt, Senior Botanist and Director of the National Plant Information Network, Dr. Steve Windhager, Director of Landscape Restoration, and Flo Oxley, Education Director and Conservation Scientist. Water will be provided. You should bring sunscreen and insect repellent, and wear comfortable walking shoes, a hat, and sunglasses. Birders might want to bring binoculars, and don’t forget your camera.

FT 13 A Brief Introduction to the Balcones Escarpment Flora: Balcones Canyonland Preserve
Wednesday, August 17 8:00 am – 12:00 noon
Rose Farmer, Travis County Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, and Tom Wendt, Curator TEX/LL. Email:
Limit: 25
Lunch: No

Austin spreads out directly over the Balcones Fault, the ancient and inactive geological fault that forms the eastern edge of the Edwards Plateau, and the resultant escarpment is called the Balcones Escarpment or Balcones Canyonlands. The canyons of this area harbor a fascinating combination of endemic, disjunct, and widespread species that add to the already unique Edwards Plateau flora of surrounding uplands and the karst caves that are home to a number of endemic invertebrates. The Balcones Canyonlands Preserve is an extensive coordinated patchwork of preserved land owned by public and private entities including the City of Austin, Travis County, Lower Colorado River Authority, Nature Conservancy of Texas, Travis Audubon Society, as well as private landowners, and is one of the country's largest urban/suburban preserves; many of its lands, including the area visited on this trip (owned by Travis County), can be visited only by previous arrangement.

We will walk through an excellent example of a limestone canyon, enjoying the beautiful canyon woodland while seeing endemic plants and discussing the role of the Preserve in this rapidly growing urban
area. For this two-hour easy walk, participants should bring hats, sunscreen, and small day-packs to carry water (which will be provided).

FT 14 Big Bend National Park

Thursday - Saturday, August 18 – 20, Leave 7:00 am -return early evening Saturday
Joe Sirotnak, Big Bend National Park, Email:
Limit: 10

Big Bend is one of the largest (800,000 acres) and least visited of America’s national parks. From an elevation of less than 2,000 feet along the Rio Grande to nearly 8,000 feet in the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend includes massive canyons, vast desert expanses, and the entire Chisos Mountain range. Big Bend has national significance as the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert in the United States, and few areas exceed the park’s value for the protection and study of geologic and paleontologic resources. Cretaceous and Tertiary fossils exist in variety and abundance, archeologists have discovered artifacts estimated to be 9,000 years old, and historic buildings and landscapes offer graphic illustration of life along the international border at the turn of the century.

The park exhibits dramatic contrasts in climate and elevation, contributing to an exceptional diversity in plant and animal habitats. The park is home to more than 1200 species of plants (including approximately 60 cacti species), 11 species of amphibians, 56 species of reptiles, 40 species of fish, 75 species of mammals, 450 species of birds, and about 3600 species of insects. The park boasts more taxa of birds, bats, and cacti than any other national park in the United States.

For more information about Big Bend, visit Water will be provided for hikes. You should bring a pack, sunscreen and insect repellent, and wear comfortable walking/hiking shoes, a hat, and sunglasses. Birders might want to bring binoculars, and don’t forget your camera.

FT 15 Texas Subtropics: “The Valley”

Thursday - Saturday, August 18 – 20, Leave 7:00 am - early evening Saturday
Robert Lonard, University of Texas--Pan American; Email:
Tom Patterson, South Texas Community College, Email:
Limit: 10

The lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas includes vegetation types, plant species, and birds found nowhere else in the United States. Although highly modified by agriculture and urbanization, fascinating remnants remain that will be visited on this trip. We will drive from Austin to near mouth of the Rio Grande at the Gulf of Mexico, and then work our way from the coast upriver. Exactly which localities we will visit will depend on what kind of year the Valley has had (wet or dry), and whether it is raining or not when we are there—but under any combination, we will see botanical treasures.

The first night we will stay in Brownsville, and that afternoon and the next morning we will visit nearby localities. Prime spots are Boca Chica, the Sabal Palm Audubon Center and Sanctuary, the Southmost Nature Conservancy Preserve, and the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site. Boca Chica, on the coast, includes coastal sand dunes, clay dunes vegetated by Tamaulipan coastal scrub, and other saline communities; the area is rich in shore and other birds. The Sabal Palm Preserve and the Southmost Preserve harbor remnants of one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in the US, the lower Rio Grande alluvial flood plain forest, characterized by a mosaic of sabal palm (Sabal mexicana) groves, Texas ebony (Pithecellobium ebano) thorn forests, bottomland and riparian forests, and resacas (poorly drained areas representing old river channels), with many Mexican species found nowhere else in the United States. Rarest of these vegetation types are the sabal palm groves; these palms once grew profusely along the edge of the Rio Grande in small stands or groves extending about 80 miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico, but today only a small portion of that forest remains, protected in these two preserves. The Palo Alto Battlefield is botanically interesting and includes nice examples of resaca and native thornscrub vegetation—and it is also fascinating as the locale of the first military engagement of the Mexican American War (May 8, 1846). Plant species known in the U.S. only from the Valley may be seen at any of these sites.

Mid-day on the second day we will drive upriver in order to visit Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge late in the day; that night we will stay in McAllen nearby. The 2088-acre refuge is bounded by the Rio Grande; this jewel of the refuge system is an ‘island’ of thorn forest habita tthat is host or home to nearly 400 different types of birds and about one half of all butterfly species found in the United States. Both here and at the preserves visited the previous day, many Mexican bird species can be seen, including buff-bellied hummingbird, plain chachalaca, groove-billed ani, pauraque, green jay, etc.

The third morning, before returning to Austin, we will proceed further upriver to drier uplands overlooking the river in Starr County to visit particularly rich examples of typical South Texas “brush” communities (Tamaulipan thornscrub, dominated by Acacia rigidula), as well as a barretal community. Barretal, a shrub community dominated by Helietta parviflolia, is common further south in Mexico, but is found in the United States only on a few bluffs in this area. We may also stop by a locality of the rare Manihot walkerae.

Heat can be very intense in the Valley in August, especially westward (away from the Gulf); daily highs can easily be over 100 degrees. Hats, protective clothes, and sunscreen are necessary; sun glasses are highly recommended. Good boots that provide protection from spines and rattlesnakes are a must. You will need a small daypack for water (provided). Binoculars (especially for birders) are highly recommended, as well as swimming suits for evening dips at the motel. Boca Chica is extremely sandy so an extra pair of “knock-around” shoes for there might be a good idea.

The field trip leaders, Bob Lonard and Tom Patterson, between them have over four decades of experience studying the flora and vegetation of South Texas.