A Year of Going Solo

The Solo Tract 

Often described as the biological crossroads of North America, the Big Thicket Natural Preserve in east Texas offers visitors a fascinating mixture of swamps, forests, grasslands, and sandhills. Since its establishment in 1974, it’s grown to 113,000 acres; its nine units contain nine (or ten) distinct ecosystems, ranging from baygalls and cypress sloughs to pine savannah wetlands and palmetto-hardwood flats.

The Turkey Creek unit alone contains seven ecosystems; more than seventy species of trees and nearly five hundred species of herbaceous plants can be found there. A favorite attraction in the unit, the Pitcher Plant Trail, leads to one of America’s largest displays of carnivorous plants.

Also tucked into the Turkey Creek Unit is a less well-known area called the Solo Tract: a longleaf pine upland purchased from a logging company. Because longleaf pines are resistant to fire, occasional prescribed burns, combined with other forms of clearing, are helping to reestablish the area as a healthy longleaf grassland: the sort of area some describe as ‘a prairie with trees.’

The Solo Tract ~ Longleaf Pines with Little Bluestem

No trails exist in the Solo tract, but wandering is encouraged, and that’s what I intend to do in the coming year. I enjoyed witnessing changes at Walden West from month to month, but was eager for something different. The Big Thicket certainly differs from my usual haunts, so ‘going Solo’ it will be.

The first thing I learned after my January visit was how little I know about pine trees. Both longleaf pines (Pinus palustris) and loblolly pines (Pinus taeda) grow in the Solo tract, and sorting them out can be a challenge. Bark color and texture vary widely, both between and within the two species. Loblolly bark is said to be “divided by shallow fissures into wide, rectangular blocks,” while longleaf bark is described as being “fissured into irregular, somewhat wavy plates;” to my untrained eye, that’s a distinction without much of a difference.

That said, and despite the bark of mature loblolly pines being described as “topped by scaly plates or rounded ridges that are reddish-brown, gray-brown, or gray-black,” my hunch is that this one qualifies as a longleaf.

Certainly Pinus, and probably palustris

The leaves of pine trees — their needles — also help with identification. Longleaf pine needles can attain a length of fourteen inches or more, while those of  loblollies typically range from four to nine inches. The needles of both species are bundled together in groups called fascicles; longleaf bundles generally contain three needles, while the loblolly bundles may hold two, three, or four.

Despite similarities between mature longleaf and loblolly pines, juvenile trees are easy to distinguish. After longleaf seedlings sprout, they spend several years remaining close to the ground, looking much like a clump of grass.

During this time they develop a deep taproot, while clustered needles protect their buds from fire. Once they begin growing, they attain height relatively quickly, but branching doesn’t begin until they’re about ten feet tall.

Up, up and away ~ longleaf pine style

Not only do loblolly pines seed and grow in sandy soils where water is close to the surface (‘loblolly’ is an interesting early American term applied to the trees), they begin branching much earlier, and grow more quickly than the longleafs: as much as two feet per year.

A loblolly pine, branching out

Despite a late winter absence of colorful flowers, other hints of color caught my eye as I sauntered down the road shown in the top photo. Stopping to look at a relatively large branch that had fallen into the brush, I realized I’d never seen anything like the bits of purple, yellow, and lavender it contained. Eventually I learned that, despite differences in common terminology, I’d found both male and female cones.

In common with other gymnosperms, pine trees have no flower or fruit. Instead, they produce cones and seeds; the term ‘gymnosperm’ literally means ‘naked seed.’ Unlike angiosperms, or flowering plants, the seeds of pines are not encased within an ovary, and the trees are not pollinated by insects.

Instead, individual trees are monoecious, containing  both pollen-bearing male cones and female seed-bearing cones. Pollen produced by male cones (properly termed ‘microsporangiate strobili’) is carried by the wind to fertilize the immature female cones (‘megasporangiate strobili’) which eventually will produce seeds. After maturing, the female cones open and release their seed; eventually, they fall to the ground, becoming the familiar pine cones we collect.

Had a single branch not fallen from one of the tall trees lining the road, who knows how long it would have taken for me to learn these things?

Colorful and intricately patterned male cones

A tiny female cone

Thanks to previous visits to the Solo tract and other Big Thicket sites, not everything seemed so unfamiliar. In time, the purer whites of the Pepperbush and Pipewort; the tall, bright gold of the Miller’s Maid, the purple Liatris, and the delicate shine of the Yellow-eyed Grass will appear. When that happens, I’ll be there to celebrate their new season. 

Sweet pepperbush ~ Clethra alnifolia
Ten angled pipewort ~ Eriocaulon decangulare
Golden miller’s maid ~ Aletris aureaPrairie blazing star ~ Liatris pycnostachyaYellow-eyed grass ~ Xyris ambigua


Comments always are welcome.

69 thoughts on “A Year of Going Solo

  1. You post does a really good job explaining the difference in the two trees. I think we only have loblolly where I live, but I’ll keep an eye out for longleaf. This area has already been logged over once.

    1. I would suspect loblolly in your area, simply because their faster growth rate makes them well-suited for developments — as well as for the timber industry. I did read — but can’t find the reference now — that aging loblolly needles tend to be much more red than those of the longleaf pine. I found needles at the Solo tract that surprised me because of their vibrant color, but I wasn’t smart enough or educated enough at that point to measure them, or count the needles in their bundles. Even the photo I took doesn’t show the sheath end of the bundles. Next time!

    1. How fulfilling to have a new project already underway for the year. At about two hours each way from you to the Big Thicket, you’re in for some long days—the time-price for a worthy exploration.

      I sympathize with your difficulty in telling the two kinds of pine bark apart, and the two species more generally. Extreme cases are easy—a 14-inch needle has to be a longleaf—but an 8-inch needle could be either.

      1. Make that two and a half hours, including a stop for coffee or gas. It’s a relatively easy trip, though. I always go on Sunday, in order to avoid work traffic and construction zones. Right now, there’s just enough time for a visit to the Solo tract, but as the days get longer, I’ll be able to stop by other great spots, like the Nature Conservancy’s Sandyland Sanctuary and the Watson Rare Plant Preserve.

        Because I had a basic familiarity with life around Walden West, even the unfamiliar usually was easy to figure out. In the Big Thicket, things are different. Plants like the sweet pepperbush are confined to a small area of east Texas, and I’m not at all good at identifying basal leaves of anything. Reconsideration and revision will be part of this game plan! (As a matter of fact, I was dead wrong about something I spotted at the Laura Hamby Nature Trail, and I still need to post about that.)

    2. I’ve been sitting on the idea for a couple of months, but wanted to make a visit before introducing my new spot. Because it’s only a footnote to one or two pages on the Big Thicket websites, I’ve only met other people there twice: a quartet of college students doing a butterfly survey, and a couple who walked in, looked around, said “There’s nothing here but trees!” and walked out.

      Baby longleafs always make me smile. They can stay in that grass form for years while they develop their taproots. I wondered how long those roots might be, and found this, from the Longleaf Alliance:

      “In mature [longleaf pines], roots radiate out laterally an average of 35 feet from the trunk (some roots may travel up to 75 ft). Longleaf differs from other pines in that the tap root is nearly as large in diameter as the tree’s trunk, tapering gradually to depths (on average) of 10 to 15 feet.”

  2. Interesting write up and lovely photos, Linda. Good luck with your project!
    Looks like a good place to do some experimental photography. I can’t resist doing ICM when I see trees and I’m sure the longleaf trees in the Solo Tract would look striking in b&w.
    Happy Sunday from the Fab Four

    1. I had such fun with my monthly visits to Walden West (aka the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge), I want to repeat the experience, but in a different spot. The Solo tract is small enough to make documenting changes over time possible, and enjoyable. At least once during the summer months, I’ll stay overnight in order to manage some sunrise and sunset photos. As for black and white, even in their natural state the trees sometimes suggest that kind of treatment.

  3. I hope the exam is going to be multiple-choice.

    My brother-in-law worked in the paper industry for nearly 50 years. He has often tried to educate me on identifying the various species of pine trees. Pretty sure he considered me a lost cause many years ago.

    When we lived in Texas, one of our best friends lived near Palestine. We would explore parts of the then “new” Big Thicket Preserve. That was in the late 1970’s. His wife’s family lived on a large farm and we were able to watch Red Wolves roam across their melon field during a full moon. Pretty cool! (Interesting article on their sad history here: https://www.texasmonthly.com/travel/red-wolves-texas-breeding-program/)

    Even in winter form, your collection of plants is totally captivating! How exciting it shall be to watch them change with the seasons. Much of The Big Thicket resembles the areas in central Florida we love to explore. Pine forest, hardwood hammocks, savannas, swamps – for me it is all “happytat”!

    1. The first time I flew into Houston from the north, I looked down at those Montgomery County pines and thought, “What in the world?” Then, I mostly forgot about them, except to notice that they didn’t look like the midwestern spruce and fir I’d grown up with. Eventually, I figured out that southern pines differed from northern pines; now, it’s time to learn at least a little more about them.

      That was an interesting article about the wolves. There’s a life-long Texas native, a hunting and fishing guide, who lives in the wilds of Chambers County and who swears he saw a wolf recently. If I were to believe anyone, I’d believe him. I’ve also heard that black bears are showing up in deep east Texas: perhaps coming in from Louisiana. Even if I roam the bottomlands, it’s still unlikely I’d encounter much more than a raccoon or possum.

      On the other hand: there are Red-cockaded Woodpeckers out there. I’d love to see one of those.

      While I was putting this post together, I thought about you and Gini when I realized that every one of the plants I highlighted has a parallel in your area: by genus, if not species. We may have Aletris aurea, but you have A. lutea, and so on. It’s going to be fun to compare notes over the months.

      1. We had a terrific swamp morning this past Friday and found a surprising amount of color. Some of the blooms were expected, some seemed early and some seemed late. Sounds like my normal state of confusion!

    1. That’s an amusing story about Eisenhower: an example of diplomacy in action. I noticed that loblolly seeds were carried on the Apollo mission, too, and that trees from those seeds were planted around the country. That’s neat stuff.

    1. Thanks, Eliza. There’s been enough rain now that I have hopes for a good assortment of wildflowers, and a goodly number of shrub-like plants are appearing already. I’m going to have a lot to learn!

    1. I’ve always enjoyed the area, but I’ve usually been there in summer and early fall. It’s going to be great fun to see what the other months have to offer. I will say I was reminded on this trip that the greatest danger probably will be the late Sunday afternoon traffic headed back to Houston.

  4. The Big Thicket Natural Preserve sounds like a wonderful place to wander and see so much diversity! I would like to see the Pitcher Plant Trail. I love pines, too, and enjoyed your post on wandering about the Solo Tract part of it.

    1. You’ll have a chance to see the pitcher plants. I’ve managed to miss the blooms in the past, but regular visits to the area should ensure that I’m there at (or around) the right time. In fact, four of our country’s carnivorous plants can be found in the Big Thicket: pitcher plants, sundews, bladderworts, and butterworts. I’ve never seen the butterworts, but I’ve come across the other three, and I’m hoping to find all four this year.

  5. A very nice piece of natural history writing, Linda. Neither of those pines occur here, I don’t believe. It’d be fun to see 14″ pine needles! I wonder if anyone makes baskets or some similar item out of woven needles.
    Looking forward to another year of documentation of a place such as last year’s Walden West. We don’t have a Big Thicket Preserve here but we do have a Walden. You’d think I would visit it.

    1. No, these both are southern species. Both of them creep up toward Pennsylvania, but that’s as far north as they go. As for the needles, I took a look at Etsy and discovered innumerable sellers with longleaf pine needles on offer for basketry, and I see that Gue mentioned their use in her area (South Carolina). You can buy them ‘natural,’ or dyed various colors. I was surprised to see several sellers offering them in lengths up to 17″ and 18″. Now I’m wondering who collects them. Of course, as many as I’ve seen covering the ground, it shouldn’t be difficult work: just time-consuming.

      Of course, one of the first things I need to do before heading to the Big Thicket again is getting myself back to Walden West, to see if our substantial rains have put some water in that pond!

  6. Years and a lifetime ago I lived near the Big Thicket and drove through it several time. Being from South Texas I didn’t care for pines and never learned to tell one from the other. Thanks for the lessons and photos of The Solo Tract. I found it interesting too to see what a pine started and grew. There will be much in the Big Thicket for you to explore and share. Excellent photos as usual.

    1. Isn’t it interesting how our early experiences of the natural world shape our preferences later in life? Being from the midwest, I know in my bones what a “real” autumn looks like; it’s filled with red, yellow, and orange-leaved hardwoods. And, despite not wanting to live in cold and snow, the thought of snow arriving here puts me in a state of high excitement, so it makes perfect sense to me that a south Texan could look at a stand of pines and think, “Well, ok.”

      I’m fascinated by the grassy start of the longleaf pine, and the way it’s evolved to protect itself from fire as it develops its root system. There are things going on all around us that we just don’t notice or know about until someone points them out — and I have a feeling I’m going to be learning a good bit this year.

    1. And your response to the photo tickles me to death. I’d kind of hoped that would be some people’s response. As I looked down the road, it certainly beckoned to me. Now I’m wondering how far it goes; it may not be a yellow brick road, but it’s a yellowish clay in spots. That’ll do!

  7. That’s a lovely spot and it sounds like you will have enough ecosystems to keep you busy investigating for quite some time.

    We have several species of pines in SC. We have quite a few long leaf pines scattered around in our neighborhood.
    The thing I like best about a stand of pines is the sound the wind makes when it blows through the tree tops.

    1. Whenever I hear wind in pines, I think of my favorite book from childhood: Heidi. I wanted in the worst way to live on top of a mountain where I could listen to them every day — even though, as a kid, I don’t think I knew what wind in pines actually sounded like.

      I saw your comment about using pine needles in basketry, and one thing led to another. Longleaf pine needle baskets turn out to be a traditional skill of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe, which is found in east Texas. I’ve heard about the tribe forever, but have known almost nothing about them. I just discovered they’re located very near the Big Thicket, and there are articles galore about their use of the longleaf pine. Clearly, I’m going to have to trek down that metaphorical road, too.

  8. The Pinus bark certainly caught my attention. I have a large database with bark photographs but nothing like this. I am looking forward to your solo year, looks like am interesting place where many things will unfold through the year.

    1. The bark on both these trees is beautiful. I’ll make a point of getting at least a few nice photos of it in the course of the year. I’ve already discovered something unexpected: that the longleaf pine has played an important role in the culture of a local Native American tribe, and that this ecosystem stretches into Louisiana, where place names like Flatlands, Pine Prairie, and Longleaf exist. I think I might know what the land looks like around there.

    1. As you know, Tanja, there’s never enough time. That’s especially true since every discovery leads to several more, and there’s always another road. One of those roads may lead into Louisiana, where the same longleaf grasslands exist — but for now, it’s the Solo tract that needs attention.

  9. A fascinating post. I love the pine trees and the information in this post is so well described and researched. The trees have both the male and female genders and are monoecious, how handy and must make for harmony and less friction or conflict.

    1. In fact, almost all trees are monoecious: able to produce flowers and set seed on their own, without needing another pollinator. Learning that made me curious, and I looked up which trees might be dioecious, with male and female on separate trees. It turns out that boxelder, persimmon, white ash, ginkgo, holly, red cedar, Osage orange, aspen and willow are dioecious trees. Also, when it comes to trees (or any plants, for that matter), it’s better to refer to their male or female sex; sex refers to a set of biological attributes in humans and animals, while gender refers to socially constructed roles.

      Thinking about harmony and conflict among trees, I couldn’t help remembering the stands of black walnut I grew up with. Black walnut roots may extend 50 feet or more from the trunk, and they produce a natural herbicide known as juglone, which inhibits the growth of other plants under and around the tree. That reduces competition for water and nutrients, leaving more for the black walnut. Clever tree!

    1. Trying to be scientifically accurate and yet appealing to the general reader is much harder than I ever imagined; it’s not always so easy to turn information into a story! Thanks for recognizing the process in the background, and thanks especially for those kind words, Derrick. You certainly know a bit about the work involved in producing an interesting post — and that doesn’t even count the technical issues!

  10. Getting into pine trees, Linda, you are getting closer to my outdoor world. Pines, firs, cedars, and oaks were the primary trees of my childhood and continued to be into my adulthood. They still are, although I am having to readjust now living in the east. I almost always carry a tree ID book with me. (I have several). Enjoy your new adventure. I look forward to following you as you wander down new trails.

    1. I well remember those photos you’ve shared, Curt — from your younger days as well as from your not so long ago but now-far-away forest home. I used to laugh at the Smothers Brothers bit called “I talk to the trees” — but now, I’m one of that crew. The best part of it is that trees talk back; that’s what makes them such fine companions.

      I recently read this book review and it really appealed. I suspect you’d find it interesting, too. The amount of life contained in trees is far more diverse than the birds who call them home, and far more interesting.

    1. I’m looking forward to it, too. During the past year, I’ve often thought about heading that direction, but you know how it is: one thing and then another seem to get in the way. As the days lengthen, I’ll be able to explore some of the other spots around there, too. Some I already know, like the Watson Preserve, but I’d like to make it to some of the other units, too, and learn more about some of the cultural aspects of life in the piney woods — like the Alabama-Coushatta basketmaking.

    1. I’m so pleased that you enjoyed it, Robert. I’ve already learned quite a bit, and I’m looking forward to even more discoveries down the road. It’s always good to be reminded that there are real treasures close to home.

  11. Wow, Linda, that’s a LOT of information! Thank you for doing the research, and I know I’m going to enjoy this new project of yours. It will be interesting to see the changes over the course of the next several months. Those baby pines are so cute!

    1. Speaking of cute babies, I remembered your tiny tree, and went back to look at it. Like our ‘cedar’ trees that actually are junipers, yours carries a couple of names– a point you made in your Etheree. I was curious about the species, and found this in a good article:

      “Eastern redcedars are dioecious, which means that male and female trees are separate plants. It’s easy to tell the difference between the two. While both bloom in late winter, female eastern redcedars produce green flowers and the males produce yellow flowers. The female trees bear small (quarter-inch), fleshy, berry-like cones that appear in spring and mature in the fall. The “berries” are generally blue with a whitish bloom, giving them a gray-blue appearance, and contain 1 to 4 seeds each. The male trees bear brown, pollen-bearing cones on the branch tips. Their pollen is dispersed by the wind.”

      So, when spring comes, you might be able to figure out if it’s a boy or a girl!

  12. Personally, I love areas with multiple ecosystems! And I never realized that some pine trees are, essentially, self-pollinating. I learn so much from your posts…..

    1. One of the first things I realized when I began doing research for this post is that I need to get past my tendency to think of junipers and firs as ‘pine trees.’ Pines have their very own genus — Pinus — and almost all of them are monoecious. There’s always an exception, of course, but that’s life in nature!

      If you enjoy multiple ecosystems, I suspect there will be more than enough to keep you entertained here this year. These pine trees have some very interesting companions!

  13. Any time I’m in a biologically diverse place, even strictly within botany, I find myself somewhat in awe of folks who can figure out what all the different stuff is. There’s just so much. Just your two trees here leave me scratching my head…

    1. I’ve been perplexed more than a few times already, although a few mysteries have been solved, too. For example: I’ve always wondered why some pine cones on the ground have been chewed down to the nubbins. Now I realized that squirrels, and perhaps other critters, have been gnawing on them to get at the seeds. Beyond that, I never had a clue that the cones on the ground were female. Live and learn. I have a feeling that my long-time mental division between prairies and forests is about to go by the wayside, too. For years I thought prairies = grass, and forests = trees. The answer to that is, “Yes, but…”

  14. This post is so timely – I’ve been helping my brother who is moving to East Texas learn about the local plant species. Pines have been a particular challenge as we’ve wandered between the towering trees. Glad you included the photo of the infant Long Needle Pine, looking for all the world like grass – I had no idea that’s how they started out!

    1. What fun! Moving to a new area always is a delight, and there’s plenty to learn in east Texas. If you enjoyed the baby longleaf, what until you see the teenagers and the young adults; they’re some of the most interesting trees I’ve seen. Best of all, their growth patterns are so recognizable that they’re relatively easy to spot: at least in those early years. I laughed at the bit of advice I read in one article. After noting the difference in needle length between the longleaf and and loblolly, it said, “Examining needles on the ground can be tricky, as there’s no guarantee that the needles beneath tree A haven’t been carried from tree B or tree C by a squirrel.” Point taken!

      1. …or carried by the wind! Are squirrels interested in pine needles? I didn’t know that. Pine cones, of course, are carried far enough by the frisky critters to confuse identification. The mixed prairie and trees are one objective of the re-foresting of Memorial Park in Houston, after the terrible drought several years ago killed roughly half the pines (which were not native). I’ll be very interested to see their results.

        1. Apparently some species use pine needles to line their nests. And of course when they gnaw off twigs for their nests, or attempt to grab a cone, little branchlets with needles attached will fall to the ground. They’ll do the same thing with other trees. The live oak nearest my place always has a scattering of still-leafy twigs on the ground when it’s nest building time.

          When it comes to tree replacement, it’s been interesting to watch post-Ike developments in Galveston. Originally, there weren’t any oak trees on the island. As people moved in, they planted the oaks that reminded them of ‘home’ — sometimes Germany, sometimes other parts of Texas. After the storm of 1900 took out those trees, they replanted oaks, and those defined the landscape of the island for decades: until Ike. Now, there are more palm trees, different oleander cultivars, and such. It’s a nice look, and more sustainable. There’s a long planting of oleanders on 2094 in Clear Lake Shores that have frozen to the ground and been cut down several times since I’ve lived here. Every time, they’ve come back, and I expect the same this year.

  15. I very much look forward to your further explorations here. One thing that did catch my eye was the prairie with trees…Since prairie encroaches on forest, I wonder if this is in its slow transition to completely prairie…

    1. To begin, I suppose it’s worth noting that any description of a longleaf forest as “a prairie with trees” is partly fact and partly poetry. While many of the grasses and forbs native to the longleaf ecosystem are similar to those found on our prairies — the same genera, if not species — there are significant differences between the tall, medium, and shortgrass prairies that historically overspread the central part of the country and a longleaf forest.

      Beyond that, one of the primary reasons for our loss of native prairies, and a primary threat to the longleaf forest understory, is the incursion of trees and woody plants. Prairies don’t encroach on forests; trees and shrubs encroach on the prairies. Chris Helzer, Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska, puts it succinctly: “Woody plant encroachment is one of the biggest challenges we face in prairie management today.” (His blog is filled with informative and readable posts about the issue, like this one.

      What’s especially interesting to me is the critical need for fire to ensure the health of both native prairies and the longleaf forest. Occasional lightning strikes or human-set fires used to keep the trees out. Once fire suppression became the name of the game, prairies began to disappear, dying out beneath the light-robbing limbs of trees. Now, prescribed fire’s one of the tools being used to increase the health of various ecosystems: the Tallgrass Prairie in Kansas, my favorite Brazoria Wildlife refuge here in Texas, and the longleaf forests of east Texas.

      It hadn’t occurred to me initially, but somewhere along the line I’m going to have to include a post or two about prescribed fire. There’s evidence at the Solo tract that one took place in the past months; it will be interesting to learn more about it.

  16. I will be looking forward to another “year of -“. I’d heard of the Big Thicket, but wasn’t familiar with it. Sounds like part of it gets up into what is referred to as the “piney woods.”

  17. I do love pine trees. The neighborhood on the edge of Houston where and when I grew up was a piney woods. We had an acre, the smallest lot available, half of which had been cleared for the house and the other half left as was.

    1. My first experience of that kind of ‘piney woods’ came when my family traveled from Iowa to Minnesota for vacations. I loved it then, and I love them now, even though it’s been a long time since I’ve spent much time in the woods. I’m still amazed at the differences between Galveston and Montgomery County; it must have been a great place to grow up.

  18. I found this all very fascinating. It’s great to see lands like this protected and nursed back to health. I like the Solo Tract photo showing the darker trees and lighter grasses up front. And the idea of no trails but being encouraged to explore is fantastic and not something I’m used to seeing. Most often it’s “stay on the trails!” And male and female cones? I had absolutely no idea. The final bit that stood out to me was how close to grass it looks when newly sprouted and how it sort of resembles a houseplant I have after the clump of “grass” has grown atop a thin trunk.

    1. There are areas of the Big Thicket where staying on trails and boardwalks is important, especially spots like the pitcher plant bogs. But in the Solo tract, there are almost no visitors; in past years, I’ve seen only one group of three or four students. It took some doing just to find someone who knew when the last burn took place there.

      I was surprised by the male and female cones, too. On my recent visit (yet to be published) I found the ground covered with fallen male cones. They looked more typically ‘pine-cone-ish’ than in these photos, having opened up a bit. I need to study up on the process before posting their photos.

      After the last burn, longleaf pine seedlings were planted. On my last visit, some of the grasses had withered away even more, and it was easier to spot the seedlings that had taken root. Such fun!

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