With more than 11,000 acres to look at over the last 40 years that Austin College Professor George Diggs has been going to Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, he has seen a lot of different species of trees. During the second Saturday program at the refuge this week, Diggs gave a rundown of many of the native and non-native trees that people can find in Texoma.
Diggs said red oaks may be his favorite, but in order to maintain the ecosystem, the area needs to have a variety of trees.
“I really like cedar elms also,” he said. “They are a beautiful smaller tree. We also have a number of really nice native trees. The bald cypress is also a beautiful tree that is not native here.”
Diggs’ understanding of trees goes beyond Texoma. He is a research associate at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth.
“At Hagerman, there are a lot of different species of trees,” he said. “There are a lot for people to see. The Bois D’arc, Honey Locust and a number of different types of oaks. They will see Ashes, Hackberries, Sycamores and many other types of trees. When people come out here and start to look, they will begin to peak into a whole new world.”
Hagerman is a great wildlife refuge, Diggs said, because of how many different animals and plants people can see. With a guide or book of plants, people can go on a nature scavenger hunt at the refuge.
“Look at the different types of trees,” he said. “Go on a nature walk and see the birds. Different types of the year, you can see a lot of different types of birds. You can see a lot of different types of wildlife. And, the beauty of it is that this is federal land and it is free to come out here. We can all enjoy this.”
Kathy and Pat Flynn learned about the kinds of trees that they can find right in their backyard.
“I thought that it was really interested that you can generally tell what type of tree it is by looking at the differences in the leaves and it is pretty basic when looking at the differences between the tree varieties,” Kathy Flynn said.
Pat Flynn said that he enjoyed hearing about the different defense mechanisms that trees have.
“The trees have adapted — be it using oils and toxins to thorns,” he said. “They all adapted to their situations. It is amazing how this has transpired over the years.”
Another defense mechanism of a tree is to poison those that may try to eat it.
The tree with the worst tasting leaves that he has tasted is the western soapberry, Diggs said. Known for its fruit clusters, flowers in the spring and fruit in the fall, this tree was once used by hunters to poison fish in a way that would kill the animals but keep the animal’s meat intact.
“I also thought that it was interesting about the soap one,” Kathy Flynn said. “That was an organic thing that the native people would have used as soap.”
California State University Ecology Professor Brynne Bryan attended Diggs’ lecture while in the area visiting her mother. She said she loved how Diggs simplified different tree’s anatomies. Bryan said it is important for people to understand that trees in North Texas and Eastern Asia did not migrate.
“Also about how we have fossils telling us about the trees that existed many years ago and why they are on different places in the world,” she said. “I love how he explained it how the climates were similar in the two areas and that is why they both still have the same trees.”
Bryan’s favorite tree is a well-known one in Texas. She said that she favors the state tree, the pecan tree.
“They are so beautiful,” she said. “They provide shade and it is a lot of fun going after the seeds.”