Saturday, June 27, 2009

How many trees do you see?

Sandhills along Ranch Road 1601
South of Penwell, Texas

Yes, there's one mesquite, but would you believe that you are also looking at a section of the world's largest oak forest?

Most of the green you see in the photo is Harvard Shin Oak trees (Quercus havardii). No one around here is crazy enough to call this a forest, in spite of the fact that even the U.S Forest Service deems it one. Everyone around here calls a stretch of shin oaks like this, "shinnery." Shinnery is endemic to this area and grows no where else. Even here it only grows in the sandhill areas and rarely gets much taller than a foot, although occasional specimens will grow to regular tree size.

At Harvard University's Flora of North America site, you can see the shin oak's distribution which covers most of West Texas, Eastern New Mexico, parts of Oklahoma, and another forest straddling Utah and Arizona. I read on a U.S. Forestry page that this diminutive oak covers 5 to 7 million acres!

I've been meaning for ages to leach in boiling water, then try eating some of the acorns as Native Americans did, but haven't yet. Maybe this fall. If so, I'll let you know.

  • One of my all-time favorite sites for this kind of information is of course the Sibley Nature Center in sister city Midland. Much of what we are learning in the Master Naturalist 2009 class revolves around habitats; the sand dunes being one of eight of the Llano Estacado. An introduction to the sandhills, how they form and continue to form, is here. (Who knew sand could so interesting?)
  • Another great thing about the Sibley site are the photo essays. From the photos of the Master Naturalist class of 2008, Burr Williams posted this photo-illustrated essay about the evidence they found of all the critters that make the sandhills home.


Maya said...

Interesting! I guess we were seeing a lot of this on our road trip!

The Green Stone Woman said...

I like that word, a "shinnery." Who would have thought of it? "I'll meet you at the shinnery at noon."

jomamma said...

LOL I hope you and GSWoman bring an umbrella for shade.

Great post.

Bobbie said...

Oh, thank you Debi, for posting about my favorite little tree. The links made wonderful reading and I still stand in awe at this tiny, tiny, oak.

Frances said...

I remember trying acorns a long long time ago in my days of 'Hunting the Wild Asparagus'

- yuckeroonie - wish you better luck.

I think that eating acorn is another use for the term 'pucker up' LOLLL

Bobbie said...

Idea: try taking one of the dead "trunks", saw it off evenly, then see if you can count the rings...I'd love to know how old.