News Categories: Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center

11 Nov
By: Communications 0

Winter Tree Care

By David Jamar
Jones Park Forester

Although winter tree care usually isn’t a homeowner’s top priority, neglecting your tree now can lead to big problems in the future. As trees enter dormancy, cellular changes direct resources away from limbs and leaves to the roots, preparing the tree for growth during the warmer months. Proper winter maintenance – like watering, fertilization, and pruning – will help your tree flourish in the spring and stay healthy through the summer and fall.

Watering

Most established trees do not need supplemental watering during winter unless it’s unusually cold and dry. The amount of water a tree needs depends on the tree’s age, species, location, soil type, and weather conditions.

In general, evergreen trees will need more water than deciduous trees because they lose water through their leaves. If temperatures drop too low and the tree hasn’t received adequate water, the foliage on evergreens may die back from winter burn.

Deciduous trees require less water than evergreen trees because they have no foliage to remove water from the root zone. Overwatering young and newly planted deciduous trees during dormancy may lead to root rot and the death of the tree. If the winter is unusually dry or if temperatures are forecast to drop below freezing, supplemental watering is recommended.

Fertilizing

Avoid using fertilizers high in nitrogen during the winter. These fertilizers may trigger new growth, which may be damaged as temperatures drop, causing dieback of limbs or stunted spring growth.

A well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer will not injure young trees when applied properly. Fertilizing young and newly planted trees during late fall or early winter can fuel root growth throughout the winter and spark new growth in the spring. For mature trees, fertilizer is not recommended unless a professional has diagnosed a deficiency in your soil.

Pruning

Winter is also a great time for shaping both young and mature trees, especially deciduous trees. Not only are insects and diseases less prevalent but structural problems are more evident once leaves have fallen.

To shape the tree, identify your tree’s leader stem, which is the tree’s most vertical stem, and scaffold branches, which form the tree’s canopy. Once these have been identified, begin by removing crossing or crowded limbs and raise the canopy if needed. With proper pruning, young trees can develop a strong central stem and grow into a more stable form.

 

Want to learn more? Join Jones Park for its annual Arbor Day celebration on January 18 and 19. An arborist will be available to answer your tree care questions. Visitors can also help plant native trees at the park and take home a free sapling while supplies last.

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11 Nov
By: Communications 0

Winter Birding

By Matthew Abernathy
Assistant Director of Jones Park

Winter birding in southeast Texas is hard to beat. With mild weather and a bird population unique to Texas, the Gulf Coast region remains popular among birders of all skill levels.

The activity’s versatility is all part of the appeal. In fact, many birders create backyard bird habitats to birdwatch from their windows. Because seed production slows in winter, birds are always on the lookout for extra food. Adding feeders and a variety of food sources, like nectar and seed, can transform a once barren yard into a popular winter birding destination. Many lucky birdwatchers have even spotted rare birds from their window.

When choosing a bird feeder, keep in mind that birds come in all shapes and sizes, so offering different feeders and food options will support a more diverse bird population. If you’re on a budget, the internet is a great resource for tutorials to create do-it-yourself bird feeders.

Venturing out into the wild is often the next step in birdwatching, and there’s no better time than winter. The Gulf Coast region features wintering birds that aren’t found anywhere else in the world. Bare winter trees often yield clearer views of birds in their natural habitat, and an abundance of parks and natural areas provide an ideal setting to explore. Like many Texas parks, Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center offers information on recent birding observations and guided bird walks. Anyone interested in birding can benefit from a guided bird walk to learn more about the land, local wildlife, and ecology and to network with those with similar interests.

Park visitors are also encouraged to visit the pollinator garden near the Nature Center to explore native plants and view bird feeders that attract birds and other wildlife in the area.

Want to learn more? Learning the names of the area’s most common birds is a great way to get started. Jones Park offers monthly bird walks on the first Saturday of the month from September through May, beginning at 7:45 a.m. Bird walks are free and open to birders 10 and older. Those who would like to help track winter bird populations are invited to install a bird feeder and report bird visits to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Project Feeder Watch.

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11 Nov
By: Communications 0

Folklore of Native Plants

 

With their vibrant colors and intricate designs, wildflowers and native plants have inspired countless stories and legends, from tales of an undercover fairy princess to a chieftain’s daughter who fell in love with the sun. These stories not only help us understand our earliest ancestors, but they also provide new perspectives on common native plants. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite stories below.

Texas Dandelion

Native American legend tells of a beautiful chieftain’s daughter who fell in love with the sun. Each day, the woman climbed a hill to watch the sun as he crossed the sky. But despite her love, the sun never noticed her. As time went on, the young woman grew old, and her long hair turned gray and frail. Near death, the woman again returned to the hilltop to watch her beloved one last time. Before she died, the wind carried her hair away and scattered it across the land. Moved by her devotion, the sun covered her body with small yellow flowers. Each day, these flowers track the sun’s progress across the sky until they grow old and their seeds, like the old woman’s hair, drift away on the wind.

 

 

 

Goldenrod

Legend has it that goldenrod was created by an ancient woman trying to make her way through a dark and forbidding forest. As the old woman struggled to walk, she asked each tree for help. One by one, the trees refused. Halfway through the forest, she came across a small stick that offered to help. Relieved, the old woman picked up the stick and continued her trek. She eventually came to the end of the forest and, as she emerged from the trees, she turned into a beautiful fairy princess. Turning to the lowly stick, she said, “For your kindness and help, I will grant you one wish.” The stick thought for a moment and replied, “I would like to be loved by all the children of the world.” The fairy princess sprinkled gold dust on the stick and chanted a few words, transforming it into a beautiful plant that still dazzles to this day.

Unfortunately, most Americans now avoid goldenrod. Because the plant’s bloom time coincides with ragweed season, it often takes the blame for causing allergy symptoms. But goldenrod is actually beneficial for both people and pollinators. With its small, nectar-packed blooms, the plant lights up fields and roadsides in the fall and has anti-inflammatory properties when used as a medicine.

Ragweed

If itchy, watery eyes and a stuffy nose plague you in the fall, chances are you have a ragweed allergy. The plant’s small, inconspicuous flowers produce large amounts of pollen that affect 10-20% of the population. Paradoxically, the plant’s generic name, ambrosia, means “food of the gods.”  Although despised by many, the plant boasts some surprising health benefits. Native Americans collected vast quantities of the seed for food and medicine. The Meskwaki chewed the plant’s roots to drive away “night fears.” The upper stems of the plant exude a red sap when cut that can be used as a stain or a dye. The Cherokee applied the juice to infected toes, and the Comanche, Cheyenne, and Cherokee used ragweed to treat colds, stomach aches, and even pneumonia. The plant thrives in disturbed areas, so most likely it wasn’t as abundant in prehistoric times.

Continuing the Tradition

Ready to learn more? Next time you’re weeding your flowerbed, look up the stories behind those pesky weeds. You may be surprised by how much these plants meant to those who came before us.

 

 

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11 Nov
By: Communications 0

Candle Making at Jesse Jones Park & Nature Center

 

Candles are common accessories in most American homes. They add ambiance, scent the air, and mark celebrations. But for pioneers, candles weren’t just another frill – they were essential for reading, cooking, sewing, eating, and socializing after sunset.

Because commercial candles weren’t available, and candle molds were an expensive luxury, most families created cheaper, hand-dipped candles with wax sourced from nature. Children, who were usually tasked with candle-making, collected wax from beehives or, more commonly, boiled fruit from the native wax myrtle tree to extract the wax. Although these candles smelled great, they were inefficient to make. Beeswax was difficult to find, and wax myrtle candles required 15 pounds of fruit to create one pound of wax.

Candles made from animal fat, or tallow, were more practical, but the candles didn’t burn well and smelled bad, especially candles made from pig tallow. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that paraffin wax was created from coal. The candle industry exploded as entrepreneurs invested in machines to mass produce candles out of the new, cheaper material. As the price of candles dropped, it became more economical to purchase candles.

Although we no longer need to make candles, the activity can still be a fun and inexpensive weekend craft for children and adults. Not only will participants end up with a useful and colorful keepsake, but the process is also an important educational tool for understanding pioneer life. To get started, check out the guide below.

Materials Needed         

Paraffin wax blocks

A large knife with a thin, sharp blade

Wooden spoons for stirring

A large tin can with wire handles to hold the wax

Yellow/brown crayons or candle dye for color

Old pots to make a water bath for tin cans

Wicks, pre-cut to 8 inches or longer

Glass jars for cooling water dips

Buckets of extra water for refilling jars and pots

A heat source like a stove (if you’re at home) or a well-built campfire

Fire extinguisher and heat resistant gloves

Making Hand-Dipped Candles

Cut the wax into small pieces so it will melt quickly. Place the wax pieces into a tin can with the wire handle facing up.

Fill your pot with hot water, and then place the wax can into the water pot. Heat the water to a simmer, making sure the water levels do not drop below a few inches. Avoid getting water into the wax cans, and do not let wax get into the water pots.

Stir the wax until it’s completely melted and move the pot away from the heat source. Ensure the water is warm but not boiling to keep the wax liquid.

Add color to your candles by dropping crayons or dye drops into the liquid wax. Add a little at a time until you have reached the desired shade, keeping in mind that wax lightens as it dries.

Next, take your wick and cut it to measure a little less than twice the length of the candle. To have something to grip, tie one end of the wick to a stick and tie the dipping end into a knot.

Begin building the wax layer by dipping the wick in the hot wax and then a jar of water to cool. Make sure to leave a portion of the wick free of wax so the candle can be hung up to dry at the end. Continue alternating between the two until your candle thickens. Because the wick will float on top of the wax at first, you will need to pull the wick straight after the first few dips to encourage a proper candle shape. Make sure you do not hold the wick in the wax for more than a few seconds because the candle will fall apart.

Continue this dipping and cooling process until the candle has reached 2 to 4 inches long and grown to at least the thickness of a thumb. Roll the candle between your hands to smooth any lumps.

Trim the thicker end of the candle with a knife so that it will sit flat in a candle holder. Hang the candle to dry by the wick. Once the candle hardens, it can be placed in a candle holder and used.

Maintenance: Reheat the wax as needed as it solidifies in the cans. Melt and dye new wax when necessary. Leave any leftover wax in the cans to be reused another day.

Make Safety A Priority

Never leave the candle making area unattended.

Watch children closely and assist young children. Hot wax does not boil or steam, so it’s hard to judge how hot it is. Do not let children stick their fingers in the wax.

Keep your work area tidy. Beware of any loose clothing and keep the ground clear. Cans of wax can be bumped and spill easily, causing serious burns.

In case of a wax fire, treat it as you would a grease fire. Do not throw water on a wax fire. Use a fire extinguisher. If the wax fire is contained in a pan, cover with a lid to limit oxygen and extinguish the heat source fire.

Never let wax come in contact with flames. Wax is extremely flammable. Remove melted wax from the heat as soon as it is liquefied. Do not let melted wax sit over the fire. Always use the water pot for melting wax, and never place a wax-filled container directly over a heat source.

Keep a close watch on the water pot, as water evaporates quickly and must be replenished frequently.

Do not pour leftover wax on the ground, down sinks, toilets, drains, or storm sewers. Leave wax in cans to solidify to use another day.

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22 Apr
By: Communications 0

Top Summer Childrens Activities

As the weather heats up and the school year winds down, parents everywhere endure a common tradition: the struggle to keep kids occupied during the summer.

Don’t let your child’s summer go to waste. From movie nights to canoeing, archery, and fishing, Precinct 4 offers a variety of summer camp activities from unique locations throughout the precinct. Check out some of our top activities below.

Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve Summer Day Camps

Spend the summer learning about nature during three action-packed day camps at Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve. Choose from among Nature Exploration Camp: Water Wise, Mini Discovery Camp: My Senses and Nature, and Jr. Ranger Camp.  Campers should bring lunch and a refillable water bottle. Bring proof of age to the first day of camp. Registration is required at www.hcp4.net/kmp. Please only register if you can attend all days of camp.

• Nature Exploration Camp: Water Wise
Monday, June 17, through Friday, June 21, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Monday, July 15, through Friday, July 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Are you water wise? Canoe, fish, and learn the basics of water testing, ecology, and nature journaling. This camp includes a field trip. Transportation is provided by Harris County or parents may drive their own children.

• Mini Discovery Camp: My Senses and Nature
Monday, July 1, through Wednesday, July 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Use your senses to explore water, air, land, and other elements of nature. Ages 5 and 6.

• Jr. Ranger Camp: Nature Rangers

Become a park ranger for a week during Jr. Ranger Camp on Monday, July 29, through Friday, August 2, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Learn about nature journaling, park wildlife, and more! Ages 7 to 9.

Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center Summer Nature Camp 

Children ages 5 to 12 can take a step back in history and discover the local tribal culture of the Akokisa Indians at Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center’s Summer Nature Camp 2019.

Participants will enjoy educational demonstrations, nature walks, crafts, games, and friendly team competitions during this free, four-day camp.

In-person registration begins Saturday, May 4, at 8 a.m. Online registration begins Monday, May 6, and is ongoing until full. A parent or legal guardian must present the child’s birth certificate during registration. Harris County residents receive priority. For more information, visit www.hcp4.net/Jones. For camp dates and times, click here.

Garden Explorers at Mercer Botanic Gardens

Mercer’s Garden Explorers summer camps include opportunities for children ages 6 to 11 to learn about seeds, bees, birds, and exotic plants around the world. A donation of $30 is requested to cover the cost of materials. Space is limited, and registration is required. To register or to receive additional information, contact Mercer Botanic Gardens at 713-274-4160 or mercerbotanicgardensathcp4.net. For a list of dates and camp themes, read more below.

Garden Explorers: Butterflies and Bees. Tuesday, June 4 through Thursday, June 6, from 9 a.m. to noon. Explore the gardens and observe the pollinators that flap, fly, and flitter among the flowers during this lively, three-day summer camp. With guidance from Mercer Botanic Gardens Education Director Jennifer Garrison, children will scout for butterflies and the flowers they are attracted to, explore the importance of honeybees, participate in nature-themed games and activities, and much more. This camp is designed for children ages 6 to 8.

Garden Explorers: World Travelers. Tuesday, June 11 through Thursday, June 13, from 9 a.m. to noon. Become an international plant hunter during this three-day summer camp adventure! Explore plants native to such locations as Australia, Africa, Pacific Islands, and North America — specifically Texas. Each day will include plant-themed activities, crafts, and games led by Mercer Botanic Gardens Education Director Jennifer Garrison. This camp is designed for children ages 9 to 11.

Garden Explorers: A-B-Seeds. Tuesday, June 18 through Thursday, June 20, from 9 a.m. to noon. Discover the life cycle of nature through seeds during this fun-filled, three-day summer camp. With guidance from Mercer Botanic Gardens Education Director Jennifer Garrison, children will explore common edible and inedible seeds, experience how seeds are dispersed in the environment, create seed-themed crafts, and more! This camp is designed for children ages 6 to 8.

Garden Explorers: Birds of a Feather. Tuesday, June 25 through Thursday, June 27, from 9 a.m. to noon. Join summer camp for three days of feathered-friend fun! With guidance from Mercer Botanic Gardens Education Director Jennifer Garrison, children will discover what makes birds unique and learn to identify birds by physical characteristics and bird calls. Participants will go on a bird hike, investigate owl pellets, build bird feeders using pantry items, and more! This camp is designed for children ages 9 to 11.

Fun4Kids Summer Program 

Enjoy summer fun at Mangum-Howell Center! From Star Wars-themed physics lessons to ice cream parties, mad scientists, and pirates, Mangum-Howell Center offers free children’s activities every Thursday at 1 p.m. from June 13 through July 25.

Click here for a list of activities. Registration is required for all programs beginning Wednesday, May 1, at 8 a.m. A parent or adult must accompany children under the age of 18. Light refreshments are served at each program. Please arrive 20 minutes before each program’s start time. Call 281-591-7830 to register. For more information, visit www.hcp4.net/community/communitycenters/events.

Summer Reading Program Kickoff: A Universe of Stories

Ignite your summer of reading and blast off into the universe of stories at the Harris County Precinct 4 and Harris County Public Library Summer Reading Program Kickoff on Saturday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Burroughs Park, 9738 Hufsmith Road in Tomball! Play giant lawn games, create out-of-this-world crafts, join special guests for storytime, and more!

Trails As Parks Summer Passport Series

Harris County Precinct 4’s Trails As Parks program kicks off a free summer passport series Saturday, May 4, at Burroughs and Spring Creek parks. Canoeing and fishing begin at 9 a.m. at Burroughs Park, and archery and hiking begin at 1 p.m. at Spring Creek Park.

Anyone who completes at least six different TAP activities from Saturday, May 4, through Wednesday, July 31, will be invited to a family movie night, which includes lawn games, popcorn, s’mores, and a movie.

TAP programs take place at parks throughout Precinct 4 and include fishing, canoeing, archery, bird watching, stargazing, science days, hiking, aquatic walks, and more. Passport cards will be available at every program throughout the summer. For more information or to register, visit www.hcp4.net/tap.

Summer Movie Nights

It’s a summer of movies in Precinct 4! Check out a new family-friendly selection every month from June through August. Movies begin at dusk. Early arrival is recommended to get a good location for your blankets and lawn chairs. Refreshments will be provided.

June – 101 Dalmatians
Monday, June 3, at Lindsay/Lyons Park
Tuesday, June 18, at Bane Park
Wednesday, June 19, at Matzke Park
Thursday, June 20, at Burroughs Park
Friday, June 21, at Collins Park

July – Frozen
Friday, July 12, at Doss Park
Tuesday, July 16, at Bane Park
Wednesday, July 17, at Matzke Park
Thursday, July 18, at Burroughs Park
Friday, July 19, at Collins Park

August – Lilo & Stitch
Monday, August 5, at Pundt Park
Tuesday, August 13 at Bane Park
Wednesday, August 14, at Matzke Park
Thursday, August 15, at Burroughs Park
Friday, August 16, at Collins Park

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