Welcome to the Connemara Philonaturalist Virtual Trail Guide
How to use this guide
to the trails (mowed paths) at Connemara.
This tour guide is intended for first-time visitors to The Connemara Meadow and who have no idea what to expect.
Each of the following areas of interest are associated with a GPS coordinate that is roughly positioned on the map at left. Typical sights, sounds, wildlife and plants that you will see there are described and pictured in the following pages.
Key points of interest:
Around the Pond
Including the parking area and the access road leading to the Rowlett bridge.
Links to trees and insects will generally show a larger image while links to birds are to the Cornell Ornithology Lab site which has info on habitat, range and migration as well as song recordings and additional photos.
Safety note: The
meadow is generally safe for family outings, walks and recreation of all ages,
but it is a natural environment. As such, we request that you wear
long pants, long sleeve shirts, hats, closed toe shoes; stay on the mowed paths;
bring water, insect spray, sun block, and don't approach or bother any wildlife
that you may see.
Poison ivy is
fairly common on the property, especially near the creek bank and on the road
between the parking lot and the bridge. If you stay on the paths (mowed and/or
graveled) there shouldn't be any problem.
Flora and Fauna: Expect to see an overgrowth on the pond of an invasive plant called parrotfeather, broad and narrow leaf cattail, bushy blue-stem and water iris on the southern end of the pond. Fauna include Leopard frogs, Red-Eared Sliders, a variety of birds and the occasional raccoon, nine-banded armadillo, opossum or coyote. There are also many different types of trees including red cedar, bur oak, cedar elm, american elm and hackberry found here, along the access road and through out the preserve.
Other: The pond is present year round and is mostly maintained with water runoff from higher grounds to its north and west. It is very biologically active due to its timely drying, contracting, flooding, expansion cycles. The flora and fauna can depend on this regular pattern for growth, reproduction and carrying out a complete lifecycle.
The pond has a regular runoff that empties into Rowlett Creek a quarter mile away and this runoff supports other plants and animals in a totally different eco-zone from the pond and its margins.
This water is carried by Rowlett Creek to other parts of the preserve and provides ground water that supports meadow like plants and animals.
Flora and Fauna: This area is filled with the State Tree of Texas - the Pecan Tree. Pecan trees were used by settlers for food, medicine, dye, firewood and furniture and the trees themselves are homes for many of the meadow animals and birds.
Other: Many of these trees are part of a pecan grove planted here years ago. The pecan (Carya illinionensis) is the state tree of Texas for good reasons! It is one of the most useful, versatile, beautiful and economically important trees around. Most people are familiar with the tasty pecan nuts that both people and animals love to eat, but other parts of the tree are useful too. The wood from pecan trees is hard and beautifully patterned, making it useful for furniture making. Settlers on the prairie frontier many years ago were glad to find pecans growing near the creeks that ran through the prairies. Most importantly, the nutritious nuts stored well and kept them alive during the coldest winters. With pecans supplying food for squirrels too, the settlers could count on squirrel meat for their stewpot. The pecan twigs, leaves and the outer nut husksalso contain lots of tannins, which the settlers used to make inks, natural dyes for hair and cloth, and astringent and antiseptic medicinal washes--long before commercial anti-fungals and antibiotics were available. Tannin solutions were also used in preparing (tanning) animal hides for use and sale. It wasn’t possible to make a quick trip to a local doctor or well stocked store like it is for us today, so having a pecan tree around to provide food, medicine, dyes, firewood and furniture made life just a little easier, and whether or not we use them in all the same ways the early settlers did, we can still appreciate their beauty and shade today.
Flora and Fauna: The shallow saddle of the lower meadow wetlands is dominated by plants adapted to saturated soil conditions. These wetlands resulted from very low-permeble soil, gentle topography and the input of water from overflows of Rowlett creek and upper meadow runoff.
Other: These shallow wetlands were naturally formed on the floodplain of Rowlett Creek. During flood events, the area along the creek receives sandy and silty sediments carried by the flood waters, resulting in the buildup of levees along both sides of the creek. These levees act as barriers to trap water behind the levees on lower elevation areas, resulting in wetland depressions and wetland swales. These depressions and swales on the Lower Meadow are very shallow, but do hold water during wetter seasons. The ditch pattern seen on the Lower Meadow was built many years ago when farmers wished to drain these wet areas so that they could be farmed.
Flora and Fauna: Grasses and wildflowers that favor moist but not saturated, conditions grow here. This flood plain habitat along with the wetlands supports reptiles, amphibians, aquatic invertebrates and aquatic and emergent vegetation.”
Flora and Fauna: The upper meadow grasslands are located on the hillside above the Rowlett creek floodplain. Here grasses and wildflowers thrive depite the drier soil and steeper slopes. Vegetation is less thick than in moist areas, but just as diverse. The past agricultural history of this portion of the meadow is evidenced by the existing terrace system.
Flora and Fauna: The forests on either side of Rowlett creek favor moist conditions provided by this large perennial stream. It and its riparian zone (the watershed immediately adjacent to the stream channel) are a very biologically diverse habitat and critical as a wildlife corridor.