Unexpected Pocket Prairies of Guadalupe Mountains National Park
By Chris Emory
In early November 2015, I had the chance to visit Dog Canyon which is an out of the way, seldom visited & remote area in the northern part of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas. My main intention for going there was to enjoy the changing of the autumn colors of the trees. The Fall foliage certainly didn’t disappoint but an unexpected added bonus was the ‘discovery’ of numerous pocket prairies of incredibly lush and diverse grasses. In some areas the strands of grass were as high as my chest (I’m 5’10”).
One of my favorite finds in those small prairie oases was Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)*, some of which towered up to at least six feet high or more. Indians were known to use the velvety leaves of Mullein to line their moccasins to keep out the cold & colonists also later used them to line their stocking for the same purpose. I wasn’t able to positively identify all of the grasses I saw (next time I need to remember to carry my field guides!) but I did enjoy seeing a lot of Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Needlegrass & Broomsedge with a lot of other beautiful grasses mixed in. If you’re looking to explore some off the beaten path, unmolested prairie richness give the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, & in particular, Dog Canyon, a try! http://www.nps.gov/gumo/planyourvisit/dogcanyon.htm
*Mullein is an intriguing forb with many medicinal uses which is native to Europe, northern Africa, and Asia.
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