Nature in the City | George Mitchell Nature Preserve
Last weekend I was coming down with a bit of nature deficit and needed to get outside a bit. Weeks and weekends have been going by in a blur lately and with Chris in the field we haven’t been camping much. It has made me realize how much I miss being outside.
I had an errand to run over in The Woodlands so I decided to drop by the George Mitchell Nature Preserve. The Preserve is located smack-dab in the middle of suburbia and if you aren’t careful you will drive right past the sign for the turn into the parking area. I did and had to turn around. The sign is small and almost inconspicuous, going with the theme of The Woodlands. If you aren’t familiar with the city it is an upscale area that had done a good job of utilizing nature and keeping their woodlands, but it is really difficult to tell what is in a shopping center until it is too late. Their signage blends in and is very small.
I don’t do a lot of hiking by myself so I was feeling a little timid walking around by myself at first. But I enjoyed being able to take my time, walk slowly and see what I could find. It is still early in the year for many things to be blooming but I was surprised to find a few things out there.
The preserve is a mix of bay, some pines, live oak, and mixed hardwoods with a lot of yaupon and American holly thrown in. The trails are wide open and clear, at least the hiking trails. I did detour and take a bike trail on the way back, which was narrower and not as well maintained. We’d just had a heavy rain the day before so the initial trail entrance was heavily flooded and muddy, but the rest of the path was not in bad condition.
Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens. I took this for an exotic at first but upon closer inspection I realized the plants looked familiar and then wracked my brain trying to come up with the name. I’d remembered seeing it in the Big Thicket last spring/summer but it had not been in bloom. I’m glad to have seen it blooming, it is a beautiful flower!
The recent rains have created some mushroom growth in the park. This variety was common along the paths. I consulted my mushroom guidebook and my best guess is this is Laccaria laccata. Apparently its growth forms are highly variable, which is why my initial thoughts did not lean towards this being it, but upon closer inspection on Google I believe I’m right. But, I’m willing to be corrected if another fungus expert is out there!
I didn’t waste time switching to the 65mm lens to see what I could ‘see’ with it. Loving what I found!
I then found a hairy plant that beckoned for a close up and then was stunned to see what the sand crystals looked like through the lens.
The main loop led to a short side trail to Bedias Lake so I detoured off to see the water for a few minutes. Water was rushing in from the stream to the west, runoff from the rains I’m sure.
A large leafed clover—not sure on the species, no flower.
After leaving Bedias Lake I detoured off into the bike trail that wound itself up the middle of the loop. I had been following the very loopy trail and decided to cut through a clearing knowing that the other side of the trail was close. I’m glad I did because I stumbled across several cacti. My best guess is this is some kind of Opuntia, perhaps humifusa. But, I’m not sure. I’m not very good with my cacti and need to get a field book for them.
I did try to look this fungus up but gave up almost immediately because I did not have enough information to make a qualified decision. But, they are very pretty. Another sighting on the bushwhack I took.
And finally, almost through with the bike trail I stumbled across this violet blooming.
I’m sure I will be back to this preserve in the future, finishing up the whole loop and seeing it when more plants are blooming. This is a great preserve to have in a neighborhood like The Woodlands. If you are in the area, stop in and check it out!
Oh, these photos! They are so beautiful!!
Hi Misti, Looks like a beautiful place. So fun to find “wild” areas in the middle of suburbia. You take beautiful photographs!
Good eye! I love the pics and the education your posts are providing on identifying plants. I’ve been to the George Mitchell a handful of times and keep meaning to go back. Now my eye has been sharpened by your post and I want to look for interesting plants as well.
Can we go there next time I am down??? Looks like fun.