Native vegetation at Chihuahuan Desert Botanical Backyard in West Texas

August 22, 2023

Cow’s tongue prickly pear and Mitre Peak

Whereas visiting far West Texas final month, just a few individuals talked about the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Middle and its botanical backyard, situated simply exterior of Fort Davis. So one morning my pal and I drove over from Marfa to test it out.

It had been a monsoon-less July in West Texas. The morning we visited, the solar was intense and the day rising sizzling — not less than by the requirements of Fort Davis, which, at almost a mile above sea degree, enjoys cooler summers than a lot of Texas. Within the shade of a tree or porch, the dry summer season air felt deliciously cool in comparison with what I’d left behind in Austin.

Chihuahuan Desert Nature Middle

A sprawling, trunking yucca and its crisp shadows greeted us on the customer middle. Throughout, tawny yellow grassland stretches towards the lavender volcanic peaks of the Davis Mountains. Our Girl Chook Johnson Wildflower Middle memberships obtained us free reciprocal admission into the backyard, and off we went, sunhatted, sunscreened, and carrying topped-off water bottles.

The five hundred-acre nature middle provides miles of trails by way of desert grassland right into a spring-fed canyon with uncommon madrone bushes and up rugged hillsides. We have been there, nevertheless, to see the 18-acre botanical backyard showcasing native Chihuahuan Desert vegetation. On the deer-fenced entrance, I ended to admire a beaked yucca and conical Mitre Peak within the distance.

Cow’s tongue prickly pear — one in all my favourite opuntias for these lanky, bovine-esque pads.

Spiny yuccas, sotols, and agaves go vertical with skinny bloom spikes or shaggy trunks.

A large view reveals a desert grassland that greens up when the monsoon rains arrive in summer season, punctuated by yuccas, sotols, and small bushes.

A wonderful agave (Harvard? New Mexico?) tucked towards a volcanic boulder

A wider view

‘Santa Rita’ prickly pear exhibiting off hanging magenta coloring enhanced by drought stress.

Alongside a small pool, a purple wildflower makes its providing to bees and different pollinators.

The magenta tunas (fruit) of a prickly pear add jewel-like shade to the arid panorama.

Behind the prickly pear, sotol’s spear-like bloom spikes body the bent pipe-cleaner stems of an ocotillo.

Yellow bells esperanza in its native habitat

Canyon senna (Senna wislizeni) is a new-to-me desert shrub, with gorgeous, butter-yellow flowers.


This reddish flowering shrub was labeled narrowleaf rosewood (Vauquelinia corymbosa var. heterodon), however is that proper? On-line sources present narrower leaves and creamy flowers.

Right here’s a wider view of this upright thriller shrub.

Cholla with yellowing fruits

Within the shade of a grove of bushes, I loved views of the encircling mountains…

…and this chicken nest cleverly woven inside the spiny arms of a cholla.

Bunny Ears prickly pear with cinnamon-colored spines and white-rimmed fruits forming post-flowering

An agave fully spent after sending its ultimate burst of vitality right into a towering bloom stalk

Maxie Templeton Cactus Museum

On the rear of the botanical backyard’s loop path you discover the Maxie Templeton Cactus Museum Assortment, “one of many world’s largest collections of Chihuahuan Desert cacti, with ~200 species, sub-species, and styles of cacti and succulents.”

Inside a greenhouse is a shades-of-tan assortment of spiny cacti.

A better examination reveals the attractive particulars. Right here’s a mound of button-like mammillaria cactus.

And furry escobaria cacti

Pale-yellow ferocactus flowers streaked with pink hover over rose-colored spines resembling lengthy fishhooks.

Pinstriped and pleated blue barrel cactus

Appears to be like simply nearly as good from above

Mexican fireplace barrel cactus reveals off pineapple-like flowerbuds and scarlet spines.

What a stunning pair.

Heading again, we observed a small, white-flowering shrub attracting dozens of flitting grey butterflies.

They’re grey hairstreaks, I believe.

Velvetpod mimosa (Mimosa dysocarpa) with fuzzy, pink bottlebrush flowers provides a touch of vivid shade.

Boquillas silverleaf (Leucophyllum candidum), a relative of the airier, upright cenizo of Central Texas, caught my eye with its tiny silver leaves and mounding type.

Grasses, yuccas, and mountains

Cat and I loved our exploration of Chihuahuan Desert native vegetation.

We’d introduced a picnic lunch in a cooler and sat on the customer middle’s shady porch to take pleasure in it. What a stunning view of Mitre Peak, as hummingbirds zipped round us.

Reward store bookstore

Within the reward store, I noticed the attractive ebook Marfa Backyard by Marfa designer Jim Martinez, Jim Fissel, Martha Hughes, and Mary Lou Saxon.

Additionally, Alpine/San Antonio-based designer Michael Eason’s important discipline information Wildflowers of Texas (which now has a brand new cowl).

Fort Davis courthouse

After lunch we stopped on the picturesque Jeff Davis County Courthouse and poked round just a few outlets on the town.

McDonald Observatory

Then we drove up into the Davis Mountains to see the McDonald Observatory.

I’d been as soon as earlier than, on a household journey. I’d nonetheless like to come back again on a transparent night time to take a look at the celebrities.

That is the very best level on Texas highways at 6,791 ft in elevation.

The views are Texas-sized. Nicely, not likely. However they’re grand.

Up subsequent: One final cease on my West Texas highway journey: tiny Marathon and its historic Gage Lodge. For a glance again at designer and creator Michael Eason’s private backyard in Alpine, click on right here.

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