New nature preserve discovered

J and I visited Stillhouse Hollow nature preserve in Austin. I have known about it for a few years, but have never gone before (’cause my interest in native plants and animals is only recent).

It’s a great trail with a much different atmosphere and set of plants than the nearby Hyridge trail.

Here’s the entrance. The big red “stay out” bar is just for cars. The juniper and shrubby oaks and cedar elms near the entrance continue on through much of the walk.
Also near the entrance (in someone’s side yard) are two very large fig trees, complete with figs! I wonder if the owners eat the fruit?
Lantana. J likes it. It is widely used in landscaping in NorCal, although apparently not native.
Prickly pear with fruit!
And on the prickly pear, cochineal! Cochineal is a red dye-producing sessile insect that spends its adult life in a protective waxy, white cocoon. Cochineal makes a very good dye that was suuuuuper valuable in the past (before petroleum-based dyes were used). It is still used in cosmetics and food. We are so lucky that it is native to Texas!
And one of six deer seen crossing the path. You can see twist-leaf yucca in the foreground, and juniper and yaupon lining the path (both edible!).

The trail ended with a lookout over a limestone box canyon with flame-leaf sumac, black walnut, and beautyberry (all edible!), among other things. Very nice!

Check out nature preserves in your area! You can browse Google Maps for them- green-shaded areas are parks, preserves, and trails.


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