POST OAK SAVANNAH
ABOUT THE POST OAK SAVANNAH
Under the gnarled, weaving branches of a three hundred year old post oak, wild turkeys feast on acorns. The slurred scream of a nearby red-tailed hawk sends rodents and birds scurrying for protective cover. Wave upon wave of savannah grasslands conceals an Eastern meadowlark patiently waiting for her eggs to hatch.
Historically, a blanket of bison covered the savannah landscape of southeast Texas. Large herds consumed vast quantities of grasses and their hoof action disturbed the soil, where they helped disperse seed. Though the grazing was intense, the bison moved, allowing the savannah time to recover.
Accompanying the bison was a different more volatile blanket: fire. These fires were typically very large and continued unabashed until stopped by a change in topography or weather. They stimulated growth of the grasses and forbs, suppressed invading woody plants and ultimately contributed to the well being of the grasslands.
On the Post Oak Savannah landscape, if fire is absent, so is the post oak. The frequent burning of the grasses means lighter fuels, hence cooler fires. Unlike many of its rivals, the slow growing Post Oak is moderately resistant to fire. Intolerant of shade or competition, the oak persists and ultimately creates small, pure stands surrounded by vast grasslands found on the Post Oak Savannah landscape.
Download Houston Wilderness' List of Ecoregion Sites for information on sites in all 10 ecoregions.
TOP 10 FACTS ABOUT...
THE POST OAK SAVANNAH
1) White-tailed deer, wild turkeys and squirrels enjoy the protein-rich acorns produced by the long-living post oak tree, a slow-growing species that thrives in sandy, rocky, well-drained soils.
2) In March and April, visitors flock to small towns like Industry, Chapel Hill and Washington-on-the-Brazos to view bluebonnets, winecups and Indian paintbrushes.
3) Many of the roadside flowers were sown by the Texas Department of Transportation, which has beautified some 800,000 across across the state in this manner.
4) One of the best places to see Texas wildflowers is in the Post Oak Savannah.
5) At least 5,000 species of wildflowers are estimated to grow in Texas.
6) The Post Oak Savannah stretches from the Red River through the Houston Wilderness and down to the Guadalupe River.
7) The Post Oak region, which encompasses both the savannah and forest area, is known as an ecotone: a transitional zone between the eastern deciduous forest and the prairie.
8) Conservation efforts in the region range from controlled burns to provide grazing lands for local ranchers and discourage the bulldozing of savannah lands to create “tame” pastures. In these man-made pastures, native wildlife is unable to sustain itself.
9) College Station’s five-hundred-acre nature preserve, Lick Creek Park, is traversed by several miles of walking, biking and horseback riding trails.
10) One of the park’s treasures is a wild orchid called the Navasota ladies’ tresses, an endangered flower that appears in very few Texas counties and is a specialist of the post oak woods.
Banner Photo by Wayne Wendel