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Meeting Nabalus barbatus, barbed rattlesnake root | Wildflower Wednesday













We went camping at Martin Dies Jr State Park in October, and while I had some usual suspects to check out on the trails there, I had a plant in mind I wanted to attempt to scout out in Jasper County—between Jasper and Kirbyville. Nabalus barbatus, aka barbed rattlesnake root, came on my radar a few years ago. It is relatively scattered and uncommon in east Texas as you can see in the map from iNaturalist above. Being uncommon and also trying to make sure I’m in the area at the right time for a bloom, well, it hadn’t worked out for a while to visit. I asked Chris to pencil in some time to try to find it after we checked out on Sunday morning and we added it to our itinerary.

On Saturday at the state park there were some Texas Master Naturalists from the Longleaf Ridge chapter hosting a lepidopteran bio-blitz for iNaturalist, and Chris and Forest had gone by while I was in Woodville that morning working an event with some other folks from the Watson Rare Native Plant Preserve at Heritage Village. Chris told me he chatted with one of the leaders of the group and then said they had recognized my screenname/name when he told them I was on iNat, too. It piqued my curiosity so I had him stop on our way over to the south unit of the state park so I could say hi and meet this mystery person. It turned out to be Laura Clark, a name I definitely recognized from iNat and all the hours I’ve spent verifying plants. Her entries are generally in the Jasper, Newton, Angelina, and Sabine county region and she usually has some interesting and uncommon, if not rare, species she sees. One of them was the barbed rattlesnake root, though most of them were on private property she has access to. There was one entry that wasn’t but she hadn’t been by there by that time of year yet, so she wasn’t sure how the population looked. I told her we were going to scout it out and hoped we’d come up lucky!

And we were! It was not the most interesting place to find a rare plant, but sometimes that’s how it happens! The road was narrow and there wasn’t a super great place to park, though it was a quiet county road so traffic was very light. And then we found a couple of plants and then more, and more…and more! Far more than I was expecting. Some were already setting seed and there were just a few with buds still to open. And then a long-tailed skipper came into play and started nectaring on one of the groups of flowers! I chased it around with my 300mm, sitting in piles of pine needles that had accumulated on the side of the road where no one drove.

A creek flowed under the road in this area so I suspect there are more plants lurking up and down stream of this oddball location, though maybe not, as you can see in the last map, the BONAP map, that the species is rare in all of its range. It’s such an unassuming plant and I think most people would presume that this chicory and dandelion relative is a weed and not something very rare. There are a couple of other Nabalus species in Texas but they are also rare and uncommon.

Keep your eye out for this species if out exploring in deep east Texas. It might be lurking in a roadside near you!

*Quick Note* – I’ve had a couple of people unsubscribe in recent days, I presume because of my uptick in writing here and wanting to declutter inboxes. I mean, I’m hoping that’s the case and it isn’t my writing! Anyway, you can subscribe by RSS reader, instead, if email is too much for you. I recently refreshed my Feedly account and unsubbed from some blogs that I was getting emails on and put them there, and it has helped a lot. My blog reader of choice since Google Reader perished years ago, Bloglovin’, started going sideways a few years ago and I’ve been limping along with Feedly for a while. I had a pile of blogs that were no longer active and once I cleaned those up I was able to add new blogs on. If anyone is using an RSS reader and has one that allows more than 100 subscriptions, please let me know. Just put my website link into the RSS reader of your choice and it should pull up the RSS feed for you to subscribe. Thanks!

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