News Categories: Featured

07 Aug
By: Communications 0

Going Native: Planting Wildflowers at Home

By Matt Abernathy, Assistant Park Director

Mowing, pruning, planting, mulching, and fertilizing – sound familiar? For many homeowners, springtime means birds, butterflies, flowers, new growth – and countless hours and dollars spent preparing yards and flowerbeds. What many people don’t realize is that you can avoid the chores and still have a spectacular garden. Wondering how? Look no further than native plants.

Homeowners who choose native plants for their gardens are often rewarded with long bloom periods and significant cost savings. These plants often come back year after year from the stem or root and don’t require mulching and supplemental watering. Because native plants have adapted to our climate, they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and rainfall amounts.

These low-maintenance plants not only add color to your landscape, but they also support native wildlife and pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. Savvy gardeners can experiment with different plant varieties to attract a variety of pollinators. Pollinators are more likely to visit fruit and vegetable gardens boasting native flowers. With the extra pollinator attention, the plants are more likely to produce fruits and vegetables. Lastly, native flowers come in all colors, shapes, and sizes. Whether you are looking for ground cover, traditional flowers, or larger shrubs, you can find a native variety to plant. Ready to get started?

Before planting, make sure to identify a location for your flowerbed and study the environment. Knowing the type of soil, moisture levels, and the amount of sun your plants need can affect the success of your project. Make sure you thoroughly prepare your flowerbed by weeding, tilling, and aerating the soil to minimize weed growth. Plant selection is the most fun, yet challenging, part of the process. When selecting plants, you have four options:

Option 1. Research, research, research. Determine what species works for you and then research the best local sources for plants and seeds. This method gives you the best opportunity to customize your garden. The biggest drawback is that you will inevitably choose some plants that are extremely hard to come by in the commercial plant trade.

Option 2. Search local native plant nurseries online and reach out to them for recommendations and a list of available plants. Unfortunately, the salespeople may not be as knowledgeable of native plants as they claim to be, and they will likely steer you to their specific stock. This could lead you to plants you don’t necessarily want or even cause you to buy misidentified plants.

Option 3. Reach out to local experts. A quick internet search can help you find experts

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07 Aug
By: Communications 0

Rare Finds at Jones Park: Crested Coralroot Orchid and Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Grasshopper

Featuring bold colors in shades of red, yellow, and orange, the eastern lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera) is no wallflower.

Known for its awkward movements and large size, the grasshopper is flightless and slow, mostly traveling by walking and crawling. In fact, the insect derives its name from “lubber,” a term sailors used to describe those who hadn’t developed their sea legs.

To ward away predators, the grasshopper relies on its colorful appearance and defensive behaviors, including spreading its wings, hissing, secreting a foul-smelling liquid, and vomiting.

Despite its showy colors, sightings of the insect are rare. iNaturalist documents that this giant insect has only been spotted nine times in Harris County. Fortunately, Jones Park Forester David Jamar recently found one at Jones Park and snapped this photo.

You can look for these insects hiding in leaves and open areas of the forest. Be sure to document your find on iNaturalist to help other citizen scientists find this fascinating grasshopper.

Orchid

Take a walk through Jones Park and you may notice rare native orchids sprouting like mushrooms from decaying material along the forest floor. With light brown stems that tend to blend with leaf litter, the crested coralroot orchid (Hexalectris spicata) is easily overlooked. But those lucky enough to view the orchid up close are treated to flowers with creamy yellow petals veined in magenta and purple. Up to 25 small flowers grow from a single spike that ranges in size from 6 inches to more than 18 inches.

Unlike orchids typically sold in stores, the plant doesn’t grow leaves or contain chlorophyll, the chemical that gives plants their rich green color, so photosynthesis isn’t possible. Instead, the plant feeds on fungi and decaying organic matter.

Native to Texas and much of the Southern United States, this orchid prefers well-drained woodland areas but can grow in swamps, desert canyons, and over limestone and sandstone. Although the plant is listed as globally secure, it is still endangered or threatened in many native states.

 

 

 

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24 Jun
By: Communications 0

Precinct 4 Events to Keep You Cool This Summer

If summers in Houston make you want to draw the blinds and turn up the air, you’re not alone. The summer heat may be miserable, but Precinct 4 staff have a plan to keep you cool. Whether you’re an early bird or a night owl, we offer a variety of activities to keep you entertained and away from the heat.

T’ai Chi at Jones Park

Visit Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center for a relaxing morning of T’ai Chi. This centuries-old martial arts class has been shown to reduce osteoarthritis pain and improve quality of life, reasoning ability, balance, and stability. John Spencer, a volunteer T’ai Chi instructor, leads this class based on the 24-step Yang form of T’ai Chi. The one-hour class includes low-impact stretching, breathing, and range of motion exercises. Class begins Wednesday, July 3, at 9 a.m. in the outdoor classroom near the Nature Center.

Art of the Hunt and “Moon” Exhibits at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Cool off indoors at the Houston Museum of Natural Science during this Precinct 4 Encore! trip on Friday, July 5, at 10:15 a.m. Adults above 50 are invited to view more than six centuries’ worth of firearms. From finely chiseled steel to intricate wood carvings, the antique firearms in Art of the Hunt illustrate 16th, 17th and 18th century decorative art. Also, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the museum brings Luke Jerram’s sculpture of the moon to HMNS. Lunar features, such as Tycho, Apollo 11’s landing spot and even the elusive “dark side of the moon” are displayed in stunning resolution on this unique sculpture.

Watch Frozen Under the Stars During Summer Movie Nights

Watching Frozen is even better in July! Catch a showing of Frozen on the following dates and locations:

• Tuesday, July 16, at Bane Park
• Wednesday, July 17, at Matzke Park
• Thursday, July 18, at Burroughs Park
• Friday, July 19, at Collins Park

Blankets, lawn chairs, and picnics are welcome! Popcorn and drinks will be provided. The movie begins at dusk. Be sure to arrive early to enjoy the pre-movie special activity for all ages. For more information, visit www.hcp4.net/p4movies or call Harris County Precinct 4’s Special Events Division at 281-893-3726.

Park After Dark

As the sun sets, a new world awakens. Explore bats, spiders, and other nocturnal creatures during these unique nighttime activities with Precinct 4’s Trails As Parks program. Close-toed shoes required. A flashlight is recommended.

• Bat Chat: June 28 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Treaschwig Bridge.
• Spider Sniffing: July 11 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Fritsche Park.
• Full Moon Hike: July 16 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Pundt Park.
• Bat Chat: July 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Participants should meet at Dennis Johnston Park to be shuttled to Waugh Bridge.
• Herp Hunt: July 29 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Pundt Park.

Reservations are required at www.hcp4.net/tapevents.

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21 Jun
By: Communications 0

Evening of Live Entertainment at the 18th Annual Precinct 4 Opry

Harris County Precinct 4 Encore! invites the community to enjoy three hours of live rock, folk, and country music during the 18th annual Precinct 4 Opry Friday, Aug. 16, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Humble Civic Center, 8233 Will Clayton Parkway in Humble.

Musicians Michael and Ginny Hix return with The Holla Band and other special guests to bring uniquely dynamic, high-energy performances featuring pop, rock, and country hits from the past. Michael Hix has been compared to entertainers like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Dean Martin, Johnny Carson, Steve Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. Ginny Hix sings traditional country music with hints of swing, blues, and jazz.

Tickets for the Precinct 4 Opry are $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger. Transportation from 10 locations will be provided by Harris County Precinct 4 Encore for individuals above 50. For more information or to register online, visit www.hcp4.net/encore/events.

 

 

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23 May
By: Communications 0

Precinct 4’s Senior Adult Program Gets New Name

Goodbye, Senior Adult Program. Hello, Encore! Harris County Precinct 4’s Senior Adult Program has a fresh, new name to reflect modern attitudes about aging.

The Encore! program will continue to provide activities, volunteer opportunities, and day trips to adults over 50, just as Precinct 4’s Senior Adult Program has done for the past 27 years. But Jan Sexton, director of the Precinct 4 Encore! program, said the new name will help eliminate the negative stereotypes of aging.

“We don’t want to call our participants anything other than adults.” said Sexton. “We wish to focus on new ways to serve this growing population who challenge conventional thinking about aging and seek to discover and rediscover purposeful ways to make a difference throughout their lives.”

The name change comes after Precinct 4’s former Senior Adult Program conducted a demographic study on aging. The study found that not only were participants healthier and more youthful, but they craved new programs to fit their lifestyle.

“We began tailoring our programs several years ago to respond to this stage of life that included more active day trips and volunteer opportunities,” said Sexton. “We recognized that these adults are active, healthy, skilled, knowledgeable, and wise. So we combined educational and recreational opportunities with service to create social impact – which, in turn, creates purposeful lives!

To reflect this image, the senior adult program will be replaced with the new departmental name, Precinct 4 Encore!, starting June 1. Stay tuned for updates!

For more information on Precinct 4’s Encore Program, click here.

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