Prairie Ecology Program
The Cross Timbers Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) will host Jim Varnum, who will present a program about prairie ecology, maintenance, and restoration at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 10 at the Harberger Hill Community Center, 701 Narrow Street in Weatherford. The public is invited to attend. Refreshments will be served before the meeting. For more information, call Eileen Porter 817-596-5567.
Varnum is a self-taught student of nature where his interests range from birds to plants to prairies to land preservation. He spends much time searching for native plants out-and-about in the DFW Metroplex and beyond. Jim has been a Texas Master Naturalist since 1999. He teaches, gives programs and leads trail walks on birds, trees, wildflowers, prairies and land preservation. His current interests include chalk prairies, Hexalectris and Spiranthes orchids and Trout lilies. His repertoire is chock full of interesting nature trivia and a few bad nature jokes. When Jim is asked about his philosophy and interest on the natural world, he quotes author Ellen Parr: "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."
During his presentation, Varnum will discuss the geology, flora and fauna of the various ecosystems that make up the North Central Texas Prairies region. Although not local to Parker County, Jim will present gilgais, interesting naturally-formed land depressions, often called buffalo wallows. He will discuss the management and restoration efforts needed to maintain a prairie.
Texas once was three fourths prairie and savanna. Now less than one percent of the original 20 million acres of Texas native tall grass prairies remain due to suburban sprawl, plowing, and overgrazing during the past 150 years. Our water quality and native plant communities, native pollinators, grassland birds and other wildlife depend on the protection of existing tall grass prairie remnants, restoration of tall grass prairie, education and advocacy for tall grass prairie conservation and restoration, and prairie landowner outreach and assistance.
According to the authors of the Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas, “the current generation may be the last with the opportunity to preserve even small remnants of the once extensive natural ecosystems” and “unless action is taken by those living today, the opportunity to provide future generations with a chance to experience natural areas” will be lost. The diverse set of native plants including native prairie flowers that once dominated the Texas tall grass prairies are now rare. These native plant communities include Little Bluestem, Big Bluestem, Eastern Gamagrass, and Yellow Indian Grass and are ranked with a Global Conservation Status of G1 – Critically Imperiled to G2 – Imperiled, which are the most threatened conservation rankings. The fate of our prairies is in our hands and we must protect, maintain, and restore our prairies.
The Cross Timbers Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets the second Thursday of the month, except July and December, at Harberger Hill Community Center, 701 Narrow Street in Weatherford. The Chapter Business meeting is at 6:30 pm followed by a social at 6:45 pm with the presentation starting at 7:00 pm. Our mission is to promote the conservation, research, and utilization of native plants and plant habitats in Texas through education, outreach, and example. The public is welcome.