Native Landscape Certification–and How That Relates

Purple threeawn--a native grass

Purple threeawn–a native grass

Last week I spent a day at the Trinity River Audubon Center learning more about native landscapes.

Why? Because understanding what was here before we were, and what works best in Dallas’s harsh climatic conditions, relates to everything. It certainly relates to sustainable design, where architects and landscape architects work to provide landscaping that will use potable water and stormwater most effectively. It relates to current and future water conservation for existing buildings and landscapes–resource and fiscal responsibility. And it helps us understand how our landscapes continue to affect the wildlife around us.

Thanks to the Native Plant Society of Texas for providing the class.292271_4685008759945_1916123272_n

The Natural Wonders of Dallas

Escarpment prairie remnant

A rocky, shallow-soiled escarpment prairie remnant with a beautiful stand of Little Bluestem and other grasses.

When I first moved to Dallas, it seemed to me to be barren of beautiful natural sites. Now that I’ve been here a while, I know that to be entirely untrue. And, increasingly, there are wonderful sites open to the public where families can begin to learn about the unique natural history of the Blackland Prairie and other local ecosystems.

There are prairie remnants–not a lot, only a few–to be seen in Dallas and the rest of the metroplex. A fragment at White Rock Lake, very small remnants in the Trinity Forest, re-created prairies at the Trinity River Audubon Center and Prairie Creek Branch Library.

Elam Road

There’s a prairie remnant at the end of this road, near the Trinity River.

Blackland prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America–more than 95% of it is gone. And, while prairie plants can be re-seeded, once a prairie is plowed it will never be the same. Prairie root systems reach as deeply as 16 feet into the soil, the better to enable the grasses to survive inevitable droughts, and it takes a long, long time to develop a prairie. If you want to know more about that, take a look at Ken Burns’s The Dust Bowl¬†or, for a more comprehensive look through time, Matt White’s Prairie Time.

The Trinity Forest itself is an extraordinary resource for Dallasites of all ages. It’s public property and there are trails throughout, carefully constructed and maintained by Groundwork Dallas. Should you care to go with a group, Audubon Dallas, North Texas Master Naturalists, and other organizations provide periodic walks to look at trees, birds, and even native American sites.

Scyene overlook

Scyene Overlook

Now that the weather is more propitious for hikes, take the opportunity to get out and look at what Dallas has to offer; if you haven’t yet, you’ll be surprised at the richness and variety–and how much fun you can have for free.