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In NE Tarrant County near Southlake on the south shore of Lake Grapevine lies Walnut Grove Park. It wasn't until last year that I was aware of this botanical jewel in the metroplex. North Texas Master Naturalist Jim Varnum visited the natural area on his lunch break, since it was near his place of employment. He has since retired and visits Walnut Grove Park occasionally. Suzanne Tuttle, Dana Wilson, Jim Varnum and I made a July 4th trip there last year and I was really impressed. It is managed and operated by the Corp of Engineers. It is in the Eastern Cross Timbers, and is composed of mostly sandy loam soils. Because of this, some of the flora can extend far from their normal ranges.
You can find Walnut Grove Park in the Southlake area, north of Highway 114. From 114, go north on White Chapel Road past Dove Road. About 1 mile up the road on your right you'll find a small unpaved parking lot with trail access. A network of trails crisscrosses the park.
Here are some of the recent botanical finds: Soft Golden Aster (Chrysopsis pilosa), Prairie Gaillardia (Gaillardia aestivalis var. aestivalis), Seep Bitterweed (Helenium elegans), Hairy Sunflower (Helianthus hirsutus), Shiny Goldenrod (Solidago nitida), Juniper-Leaf (Polypremum procumbens), Georgia Sunrose (Helianthemum georgianum), Rosemary Sunrose (Helianthemum rosmarinifolium), Drummond St. John's Wort (Hypericum drummondii), Spotted St. John's Wort (Hypericum punctatum), Southern Hog Peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata), Nuttall's Wild Indigo (Baptisia nuttalliana), Broad Leaf Snout Bean (Rhynchosia latifolia), Maryland Senna (Senna marilandica), Side Beak Pencil Flower (Stylosanthes biflora), Shag Bark Hickory (Carya ovata)***, Texas Flax (Linum medium var. texanum), Hooked Pepperwort (Marsilea vestita), Maypop (Passiflora incarnata), Devil's Claw (Proboscidea louisianica), American Nightshade (Solanum ptychanthium), American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), Pink Verbena (Glandularia pumila), and Heartleaf Ampelopsis (Ampelopsis cordata).
***Shagbark Hickory is a recent find at Walnut Grove Park within the last month and very rare in North Central Texas. The are two other locations in Parker and Palo Pinto counties. Otherwise, it's usually known far to the east in East Texas.
In our area in sandy open woods, you'll rarely find a treasure. But in several North Central Texas counties, you'll find a native wildflower known as Downy Oakleach, or False Yellow Foxglove (Aureolaria grandiflora). It is in the Scrophulariaceae family, and it's related to Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa), Toadflax (Nuttallanthus Canadensis) and Foxglove (Penstemon cobaea). You will find them growing in sandy, open shade from May to August. But typically they begin to flower in mid to late June, depending on our rainfall. Leaves are opposite, with serrated edges. The upper leaves are abruptly smaller than the lower leaves. Plants are hemiparasitic, meaning the plants have green photosynthetic tissue but also parasitizing the roots of other plants. "Aureo" defines golden, and "grand" defines large, meaning large golden yellow flowers. It has been found in Cooke, Dallas, Grayson, Fannin, Montague, Parker, and Tarrant counties. A small colony is located in the northern areas of the Fort Worth Nature Center, growing in Post Oak woods.