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In the Field...
Are you trying to think of a place to visit in the middle of winter? Want to make plans now to visit an interesting natural area near the metroplex in the spring and into the summer? Here's the answer: Lake Weatherford! You would probably assume you have to drive to Weatherford, but you don't. Lake Weatherford is about a 30 minute drive from west Ft. Worth. It is located off of I-20W southwest of Willow Park. This lake is located in the Western Cross Timbers. It is diverse, with sandy hills, prairies and sandstone outcrops, wetlands, and various lake shore habitats. The area's flora is unique, with more than a few natives reaching their western extension; implying a plant's normal range being extended farther than usual.
Even though I'm not an avid birder, I know this is a good birding destination, and probably a good fishing lake as well. The areas around the lake where FM 730 crosses are excellent wetland and waterfowl habitats. There's a lot of interesting birds, plants, and so on, could be discovered here! Some areas around the lake would be interesting to explore. On the east side of the lake, along the roadway, there is a sandstone outcrop, and a nice sandy hillside with an assortment of shrubs, trees, and wildflowers most of the year. On the southwest and west side of the lake are more sandy, eroding slopes with numerous wildflowers. On the south side of the lake near FM 730 there is a good example of wetland and marsh habitats.
Here are some examples of the flora around the area. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) has orange flowers and blooms approximately from May to July. It is uncommon. False Foxglove (Aureolaria grandiflora) blooms from May to August with yellow flowers similar to Foxglove (Penstemon cobaea), and is very uncommon. This plant is far beyond it's normal range. You are more likely to see it east of Kaufman and Van Zandt counties. It is also known from Tarrant county. Burhead (Echinodorus rostratus) is a wetland plant I've seen on the north side of the lake. It has white flowers and blooms in July and August. Engelmann Blatterpod (Lesquerella engelmannii) is a native mustard found on sandy slopes and outcrops. It has yellow flowers and is in bloom from late March to May. This is worth seeing! It is common in Decatur at the intersection of Hwy. 287 at FM 730, and at the LBJ Grasslands north of Decatur. Water Horehound (Lycopus americana) is uncommon on the south side of the lake along the roadside. It has tiny lavender flowers in whorls around the stems of the plant. It blooms from August to November. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is an introduced alien, growing along the lakeside on the north side of the lake. It has pinkish purple flowers, blooming from July to September. Common Yellow Primrose (Oenothera biennis) can be found growing along the lake shore. Some plants are up to 7 feet tall! It has yellow flowers, and blooms from August to October. White-Topped Sedge (Rhynchospora nivea) is very uncommon, growing in wet saturated sand, and probably along the lake shore. It blooms approximately from August to October. Common Arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia) grows on the north shore of the lake in saturated shoreline soils. It has white flowers blooming from May to August. Southern Shield Fern/Wood Fern (Thelepteris kunthii) is about the rarest plant I've found here. Its normal range is approximately east of Dallas into East Texas. This is the only confirmed location in North Texas according to herbarium collection data, except for a possible location in Dallas. My voucher specimen from 1997 (herbarium collection) is located at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. It grows in moist areas, and at the bases of sandstone outcrop with seeps. It is actively growing approximately from April to November. Due to its rarity, the location can not be given.
This is the first in a series highlighting some of our native flora of North Central Texas. I will select a particular species to write about each month. This month I've selected a plant in the mint family (Lamiaceae). American Bugleweed (Lycopus americanus), sometimes referred to as Water Horehound, inhabits low wet areas along lakes, marshes, moist depressions, and other moist habitats. The latin name Lycopus is Greek, meaning lycos (wolf), and pous (foot), referring to some fancied likeness in the leaves. There are 2 other species of Lycopus in North Central Texas: L. virginicus, and L. rubellus. But L. americanus is the most common. Citing the herbarium records at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT), American Bugleweed is known from Collin, Dallas, Grayson, Parker, and Tarrant counties. It also occurs in the Texas Panhandle. Other locations in other counties may exist, but they are certainly known from the 5 counties listed above. Here's a description of American Bugleweed: Plants stoloniferous (producing stolons) without tubers, stems 0.3-0.9 m tall, leaves lanceolate to nearly ovate, with dense whorls of white corollas (flowers) originating from the nodes of the leaves, usually in sets of 4 flowers. American Bugleweed flowers typically from August to November.