|Native Texas Woolly Rose Mallow Hibiscus (Hibiscus lasiocarpus) in the Great Trinity Forest, Dallas, Texas|
|Deep in the swamp with a fast building early evening thunderstorm in the distance, Dallas, Texas July 2013|
The Low Down On Getting Down, Here
|The towering pecans and oaks along lowest White Rock Creek in Rochester Park|
|Rain swollen White Rock Creek crossing July 2013|
Best parking is at the Buckeye Trailhead at 6900 Bexar Dallas Texas. Walk east by southeast and around the shore of Simpson Lake. Then just keep on trucking. Head for the willows and don't look back.
The walk-in from any direction will take a minimum of a half hour, one-way. That's an hour eaten up round trip. In the heat of the summer the conditions here border on the oppressive, the cool winds don't reach at ground level in the woods here.
|A canopy of native willows arching over a portion of the Great Trinity Forest|
No trails exist here. A few right-of-way utility corridors exist but are choked this time of year with ten foot stands of Giant Ragweed. It's easier to just navigate cross country under the tree canopy where the walking is fairly unrestricted.
The trees away from the creeks are under 60 years old in most cases, very little deadfall and minimal underbrush. Makes for an easy walk....till you hit the water.
The more picturesque places on the Trinity do not give up their secrets readily. One must really push to get out into the special spots that make the river a remarkable visit.
The goal is a really far flung place that I'm sure very few people will ever visit. The push to reach the stands of hibiscus involves a journey through high stands of cattails. Cattails are one of the most common and easily identified of our water-loving plants in Texas. Most people are familiar with the long green leaves and hot-dog shaped brown flower spikes of our common native cattail, Typha latifolia. It is found growing in dense stands in areas with shallow water or seasonal flooding, or as a narrow band along the margins of deeper water. It is a widespread plant, found throughout most of North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
|Cattails and flowering Texas native hibiscus, Great Trinity Forest July 2013|
The Native Hibiscus of the Great Trinity Forest
Depending where you find these plants they can go by a variety of common names -- Delta Hibiscus, Hairy-fruited Hibiscus, Hairy-fruited Rose Mallow, Hairy Rose Mallow, Downy Rose Mallow, River Mallow, Woolly Rose Mallow. Scientifically called the Hibiscus lasiocarpos (sometimes also spelled Hibiscus lasiocarpus), this plant has a wide distribution ranging from California and parts of northern Mexico, to much of the southeastern U.S. In the wild, Hibiscus lasiocarpos occurs along stream banks and freshwater marshes.
|Seasonal wetland created by semi-annual flooding of lower White Rock Creek near the mouth with the Trinity River|
|Woolly Rose Mallow growing in the wetland marsh near Big Spring in the Great Trinity Forest Dallas, Texas|
|Grasshopper and bumblebee feasting on the flowering hibiscus|
During most of the summer, they stand out from other plants due to their six inch wide flowers that have five petals ranging in color from white to pink. All are cup-shaped with a wine-colored center. Buds open in early morning, and the flowers fall off that evening. The Bryan's Slough hibiscus seem to have a darker pinkish hue to them that the hibiscus a little further to the west on the elbowed margins of White Rock Creek
Grasshoppers become somewhat of a problem this time of year in the Great Trinity Forest. They devour large amounts of native grasses and plants. Kept in check to some extent by Cattle Egrets and other birds, the grasshopped infestations in previous years can reach alarming size.
The pollen grains of the hibiscus here are so large that it can hamper the ability of even the larger species of bumblebees from flying. Seems that after 3 visits to flowers that the average bumblebee is completely covered with this sugar grained sized material and must stop to reorganize the pollen covering it's entire body.
Another insect that feeds on the hibiscus down here are Hibiscus Flea Beetles. There are many species of flea beetles which attack numerous plants, but vegetable and flower crops are most susceptible to these pests. Flea beetles are so named because of their ability to jump like fleas when bothered.
The beetles are small and shiny, with large rear legs. Eggs are laid at the base of plant stems in early summer after a feeding period, and larvae feed at the roots. Adult beetles, about 1/16 inch long, feed on foliage, producing “shotholes” in the leaves.
|Halberd-leaved rose mallow|
These plants also go by the name halberd-leaved rose mallow due to their distinctive shaped leaves that resemble a medieval battle axe sword called a halberd.
|Many hundreds of hibiscus flowers in a dense Trinity River Bottom Wetland|
|Bryan's Slough also known as Oak Creek, just upstream from Big Spring, Dallas, Texas|
Summer Birds Of The Swamp
|Wood Ducks among the beaver trimmed willows|
|The Great Egret (Ardea alba)|
Here, a Great Egret catches a Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) which are very common in the water here. Known for living in shallow water and breeding very quickly, they are one of the most widespread of fishes in Texas. Hardy and able to withstand very warm water temperatures, these fish are top on the list of wading birds.
|Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) on Bryan's Slough|
Common prey includes small fish, crustaceans (shrimp and crayfish), insects, and other aquatic animals. The intense red color of the spoonbill is derived from red algae ingested along with the crustaceans. As a result the red color is fleeting in the absence of those crustaceans.
|Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in the Great Trinity Forest's wetlands|
The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America. It stands three to four feet tall and has a wingspan of almost six feet. It has blue-gray feathers on most of its body and a plume of feathers on its chest and back. It has a long, pointed yellow bill and long legs. Adults have white on the top of their heads and long black plumes above their eyes.
|Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)|
Unlike most birds, especially aquatic species, anhingas do not produce oil to waterproof their feathers. As a result, their feathers quickly become saturated upon contact with water. This characteristic is believed to facilitate their deep diving feeding habits. On the other hand, this feature causes the anhinga to have little buoyancy. They often swim with only their heads above the water surface. Further, having feathers readily soaked to skin results in more rapid loss of body heat and hinders flight until the feathers dry. Anhingas are routinely seen with wings spread wide, allowing them to dry in the sun while their bodies warm. All of the anhingas’ flight feathers are molted as a group rendering the bird flightless for a period of time while the new feathers grow in.
The northernmost distribution of Anhinga anhinga is in the United States from North Carolina to Texas. Its range also includes Mexico, Central America, Panama, and Cuba. The individuals found in the more northern areas of the U.S. migrate there in March and April and stay until October, then return to Mexico and more southern parts of the U.S. Anhinga anhinga anhinga is found in South America from Colombia to Ecuador, east of the Andes to Argentina, and in Trinidad and Tobago. The range is limited by cool temperatures and low amounts of sunshine
|Indigo Bunting along Bryan's Slough|
Indigo Buntings perform a valuable service as they consume grasshoppers, beetles, flies, mosquitoes, cicadas and aphids. Diet also consists of seeds of grasses, thistle, dandelions and other weed seeds. It is well worth the effort to provide suitable brushy habitat and shrubby forest edges to assure a healthy population of these attractive birds.
|Painted Bunting in Rochester Park|
|Male Painted Bunting in flight, Rochester Park, July 2013|