As you walk the trails, you'll see small signs that have been placed at locations of interest. Just follow the instructions on the sign and use your cell phone to call in for an audio tour to learn more about each location. Alternately, you can browse the links online to both hear the audio tour and view supplemental media for each tour stop.
Most people come to this garden to see butterflies, but there are plenty of other insects here. One of the most important groups is the bees. Most of us think “honey bee” when we hear the word “bee,” but did you know that honey bees are not native to the United States? They were brought here in 1622 by early colonists who recognized their importance to agriculture.
This is a Green Ash tree. This species is found all over North America from Canada to southeastern Texas, especially the swampy bayou region around Houston. Here in Texas, this fast-growing tree can grow up to 120 feet tall with bright green leaves that turn purple or yellow in the fall. Because of its strength, hardness, and high shock resistance qualities, ash is used to make flooring, boxes, crates, and turned objects such as tool handles. It is also sometimes used to make baseball bats, although they are more typically made out of the closely related White Ash.
This plant is a Palmetto, a very hardy palm with mostly underground stems. It is a native on the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas. These palms like to grow in damp soil, so they are usually found on stream banks and in wetland areas.
Some oak trees, even large, old ones, can have very shallow root structures. Look at the roots on this massive oak tree that was uprooted during Hurricane Ike. See how shallow they were? High winds, such as in a hurricane, strain these shallow roots. If their strength is exceeded, then the tree falls.
But the life does not stop. There is now a small pond where the tree's root ball was. This is called an ephemeral pond— when it rains, the pond will collect and hold water, but it will eventually dry up if we have a long, hot, dry spell, especially during the summer.
When Hurricane Ike passed through Houston in 2008, the park lost a lot of trees like this one. These trees were not removed but were left to provide habitat for insects, amphibians and other creatures and to decompose, returning nutrients back to the soil. But the cross-sawn trunk of the pine tree in front of you also provides a window into the past.
As you walk through the forest you will see a lot of dead trees. Some, like the snags that you see here, are still standing; many are lying on the forest floor. These dead trees have an exciting role to play in the ecology of the forest. The standing dead trees or snags provide very important habitat for a number of species.