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Home Columns Range Plants Two Brush Country Survivors

Two Brush Country Survivors

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By Jake Landers

Published May 2013

Jake Landers Hawthorn’s flowers appear in spring before its leaves. They stand out in a thicket of Shinoak Two woody plants surviving in the Shinoak thickets and other brushy areas of the Hill Country are White honeysuckle and Hawthorn—not often recognized by local residents.  Both have attractive white flowers in the spring and red fruit in the fall, but their scattered distribution doesn’t provide much exposure to the viewing public.  Most of the time I see them across the fence, blooming, or with red fruit, as I go by at the speed limit on one of our good Texas highways.


White honeysuckle grows out of an Algerita bush where it was able to become established from seed without being consumed by livestock and wildlife. White honeysuckle ventures out from the thickest brushy areas more than Hawthorn.  Often it can be seen along a highway fence, half protected from excessive browsing by goats and deer, or branching out from an Algerita bush where it was protected from early destruction while it was becoming established from seeds.  It may be gaining in its distribution on our rangeland because of better livestock management, but Hawthorn seems to be getting more and more uncommon.

One variety of Hawthorn has been considered scarce enough to be placed on the endangered list, but telling one Hawthorn from another is not an easy task, even for the experts.  More than 1,000 species have been described east of the Mississippi with several dozen in east Texas.   Differences are based on the shape, fuzziness, and edge pattern of leaves, and thorniness, flower and fruit characteristics are too similar to be of much value.  Five white petals and tiny crabapple style fruits are repeated over and over.  I lump them all together using the genus name, Crataegus, and leave the sorting out of species to someone with more time and patience.

White honeysuckle flowers are just opening in early spring to provide nectar and sweet smells. White honeysuckle is a bush instead of a vine like its often cultivated cousin from Japan which has become an aggressive pest in some areas.  Both have flowers with the same perfume smell and a good supply of nectar.  Leaves of White honeysuckle are grey green and often stay on for most of the winter making it a valuable browse plant for goats and deer.  The scientific name is Lonicera albiflora.

On field trips with students in the woodlands of eastern Iowa, we would occasionally encounter a Hawthorn with large tasty fruit as big as a Crabapple.  I sampled some Hawthorn fruit in our Hill Country once, and I found it shriveled, dry, seedy and sugarless.  Must be tough growing a good Hawthorn fruit in our summer weather.


Reading The Landscape

Windmill, storage tank, and Liveoak tree on Landers Ranch in springtime. How many years before the Liveoak tree grows high enough to block the wind?

Windmill, storage tank, and Liveoak tree on Landers Ranch in springtime. How many years before the Liveoak tree grows high enough to block the wind?

   —JL

See below for Jake's answer

































Reading the Landscape: Answer

Jake’s summary: The height of a Liveoak is determined by its genetics, its ability to move moisture in the soil to its leaves for photosynthesis.  The height of a windmill can be built high enough to reach the wind.   The Liveoak here will grow no higher, it has reached its limit to pull moisture out of this soil as you can tell from the very even height of its upper branches.       —JL


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