Monday, July 7, 2008

A Prickly My Town Monday Post

I've had several people request I do a My Town Monday post about the local fauna and flora of the Amarillo area and I've been collecting a few pictures to do that very thing. Today I'm going to concentrate on the flora. Understand that trees and vegetation are not all that varied, or common, in my area. I live along a creek bank and actually have far more vegetation that you'd find elsewhere in the Panhandle.

All of today's pictures were taken by me somewhere on my three acres.

A good many of our plants are sharp and pointy. Those will be my focus for this week's post.

The above are prickly pear cactus. The red fruit is edible and makes a pretty decent jelly. Some medical studies have suggested that the pectin in prickly pear pulp lowers bad cholesterol while keeping the good cholesterol levels constant. Studies also say that the pectin may lower diabetics need for insulin. I won't weigh in on those topics but I can tell you if you dive into a patch while playing paintball, getting splatted with a marble of sized projectile becomes the least of your worries.

This picture below is of a Cholla type of cactus though I don't know enough to say exactly what kind. Maybe a tree cholla, but I will say that is my 7 1/2 year old son standing in front of it and he's better than four feet tall.

Cholla's have pretty yellow and gold blooms in early summer or late spring but I didn't get any pictures of that. Maybe next year. Here is a closeup of it's needle-like thorns and fruit.

And here is a shot of pour most prolific tree ... The Mesquite.

Known widely as a good wood for grilling ans smoking the tree is more shrub like in my area but in places where there is more rainfall they actually get to a decent size. Their tap roots can be as long as 190 foot so as to reach the water table. Mesquites are in the legume family and this time of year their branches are covered in green seed pods.
These pods can be made into coffee, ground into a flour, or used to make jelly or wine. No I've never had any mesquite wine but I might try to make some soon. I'd never heard of such until I began researching for this post. But you have to be careful messing with mesquites. They too have thorns as you can see this this picture.

These horns will penetrate the sole of a tennis shoe or the flank of a horse, resulting in a painful festering sore if not removed. I have experienced that.

Last for this week have the ever present yucca.

It cracks me up to travel elsewhere and see these spiny suckers used as ornamental plants. There are a nuisance in my area and one of the few plants that will remain green even after a wildfire has swept over them. The yucca is the state flower of New Mexico.

Yucca's grow a tall stalk in the middle that blooms and then form a hard shelled pod. Here is one alongside the creek.

Here is a general shot of the area. Back when I was younger me and my friends played paintball on a regular;r basis and the remnants of our bunkers are still visible in spots.

Now for a contest. Debra from over at My Skilled Hands has been awarding prizes for those who comment on her My Town posts and I'm stealing the idea. But I'm gonna make you work for it. Look at the following picture and guess what the image is. You don't have to be right, you just have to guess to be eligible an Amarillo or Texas related prize worth ... not much but it's a prize just the same. I'll choose a winner randomly from all who play along by leaving a guess in the comments.

Also I am headed to Sin City next week to try my hand at the poker tables so I will not be able to link to everyone posts next week. If someone else would like to volunteer to compile a list I'll put out the word and I will get a post up to contribute but that is all I can get done before I leave.


Shauna Roberts -- Riverside, California

J.L. Krueger -- Kabul, Afghanistan (I'm adding him of my own volition because these posts need to be read)

Patti Abbott -- Detroit, Michigan

Barbara Martin -- Toronto, Canada

Debra -- Peninsula, Ohio

Clair Dickson -- Livingston County, Michigan

Samantha Winston -- Montchauvet, France

Barrie Summy -- San Diego, California

Terrie Farley Moran (Women of Mystery) -- New York, New York

Mary Nix -- Olmsted Falls, Ohio

PretZel -- Des Moines, Iowa

The Anti-Wife -- Seattle, Washington


Rocketstar said...

That looks like some nasty cactus or cacti?

Lana Gramlich said...

I'm guessing yucca seeds inside of a pod..?
Thanks for sharing your local flora...or thorna, as the case may be!

Terrie Farley Moran said...


Wonderful pictures! I got a real Texas feel, except for the last one, the contest picture, which looks to me like mussel shells set inside clam shells.

Hey, what do you want from a city girl??

MTM post will be up at WoM at 4:30eastern time on Monday morning.

I spent some time reading J.L. Kreuger's blog. Thanks for recommending it.


Hilary said...

Wonderful photos of such a different landscape than I'm used to.

That last image looks like it might be the underside of a kind of mushroom cap.

Sage said...

'Tis the inside of a yucca pod I'm guessing!
Have to kind of wonder Travis, I live about 60 miles north of you and don't have a single prickly thing on my three acres! But I'm a long way from's all straight down! Got some "careless weeds" and the every present bermuda! In the middle of farm country doesn't do much for "natural" some natural critters though! (Had a snake IN my house last week...uugghhh!)
Would have been cool to have my blog up and posted some pics on MY town Monday...the differences are as remarkable as the similarities! Ahhh, the panhandle!
But alas, been writing as much as possible while sitting here, and checking up on you!
Have a good week! ~robin

Charles Gramlich said...

Great pictuers. The lanscape and flora there looks much like it does around Cross Plains, where I was only a week or so ago. I don't remember seeing a lot of cholla though.

As for a guess at what your picture is showing. You've cracked open a dried seed pod to show the seeds inside. I'm not sure what kind of plant though, but I'd guess mesquite perhaps.

Sage said...

Sorry! 60 miles WEST! (where on earth am I?)

Monnik said...

is it the inside of a mushroom? Do 'shrooms grow in Texas?

Shauna Roberts said...

I enjoyed seeing your local plants. I especially liked learning about mesquite. 190 feet is a LONG tap root. Is that a record for a tree?

Thanks for listing my MTM post.

For the contest, I'll guess a pile of yucca pod half-shells inside a wooden dish of some sort.

pattinase (abbott) said...

To the uniformed midwesterner, it looks like mussels. I know that's not right though. Have fun in Sin City. I'd do it but with Friday's Im plumb worn out.

Carleen Brice said...

Wow-3 acres! That's a lot o land. Thanks for the prickly pear jelly tip. We can get that here, so I will give it a shot. Have fun in Vegas!

Barbara Martin said...

Great photos of the prickly things in your neighbourhood.

The "guess what it is photo" seed pod maybe.

My post is up for MTM.

debra said...

My guess is also a seed pod. My post is up---and by the way, you can't steal my idea for a giveaway if I give it to you :-)

Clair Dickson said...

They're seeds from something.

I've got my history lesson... I mean, My Town post up, Travis.

I like prickly things. They're kin to me. =)

Mary Nix said...

I think it is a seed pod as well.


yellowdog granny said...

you have some very pretty land all the cacti...and those things look like ..dried chili peppers...sorta..

yellowdog granny said...

you have some very pretty land all the cacti...and those things look like ..dried chili peppers...sorta..

Barrie said...

Great photos! I tried some prickly pear cactus jam from Arizona. Very delicious.

My guess (like Monnik's): mushrooms

I'd be happy to handle My Town Monday next week.

Robyn said...

Are they hooves know when you clip a cow or horses hoove?! Or maybe it is just the hoove itself?! gross I know, but it sort of looks like that to me! Great post! I came over from Suzannes!

Barrie said...

My post is up. San Diego County Fair. Thanks. :)

Sam said...

Wow - that's a lot of cactus! I didn't think it was so hot and dry around your part of the world!

The 'guess this shot' is a mushroom clump, I'm guessing.

holly said...

leave the yucca alone. some of us are only able to grow the annoying ones...the ones that will grow themselves.

there's a cactus on my desk.


because it CAN!

Bernita said...

First thought was mussels in oyster shells. Second thought was an artist's collection of old black leather shoe tongues. And third that these are seeds and seed pods from some Texan plant.

Titania Starlight said...

This was a really good informative post. I lived in Sin City for five years. I recall all the nice pointy plants there. Do you have Spanish Daggers in Texas? I worked at a nursery for a few months 9allergic to a lot of stuff in Nevada) and I recall how very sharp it was. I good thief deterent I suspect! :o)

Anonymous said...

Jenn says:

I guess I can not guess for I work for the company. My prize is getting to get cacti stuck in my foot or scraped by yucca. It is fun to live here though and fishing is great. That little boy in the red shirt is cute. However I do not think hitting that thing with a plastic pirate sword is such a good idea. Just a tid bit of information I know.

Travis Erwin said...

My wife is right. Smacking those tall cactus with plastic pirate swords can be deadly. last time a swarm of wasps boiled out and stung the boys as well as a friend of theirs. I'd forgotten about that.

Danette Haworth said...

It's one of those yucca pods cracked open.

When mentioned that spiney thorn going through the sole of a tennis shoe--that's all I had to hear! I'd be sticking to the trails or I'd become an inside girl!

Therese said...

Yup, seeds-in-pod is my guess, too.

Hey, my uncle got a seat in the WSOP for the second year running. Have a good time at the tables!

preTzel said...

Travis --

I can remember some of those plants from my days of living and visiting Texas. Do you have fig trees in your area? I love figs! YUM!

I do not know what that last picture is.

I did a MTM post this week. :)

The Anti-Wife said...

Ouch! Mine is finally posted.

Anndi said...

Looks like the inside of a pod or something...

Does Wile E Coyote live in your neck of the woods?

Phats said...

Great pictures Travis. In my College BIO class we had to go outside and study plant life, man I didn't do well haha

Alyssa Goodnight said...

I forgot it was Monday! I'll try again next week.

As to your post, very nice photos and good info! I didn't realize there was cactus up in your neck of the state.

Joshua said...

wow, great pics man. really freaking cool. thanks again for stopping by my page and saying hi, means alot.

Joshua said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joshua said...

oh i forgot, totally agree about the 4th season sucking ass

DrillerAA said...

Very interesting insight into your part of the world. Thank you for sharing the photos.

DrillerAA said...

Looks like seeds to me. So, if you're man enough to put 'em in your mouth, then they're probably edible...kind of.

Mary said...


Thanks for the link to J.L. Krueger’s blog. Great stuff!

WordVixen said...

Yeesh. I know what that is, but I can't remember what it's called. I'm thinking an open seed pod of some sort, but I'm having issues placing where I've seen them...

Debbielou said...

It's either a yucca seed pod growing by the side of your river or it's a pile of gifts deposited by the Easter bunny ! ( Have you still got that costume ??!!!)

Have fun & don't lose too much money !

~ruthie said...

i thought it was a milkweed pod--but maybe you don't have those in texas?

Penelope said...

Prickly pear is AWESOME in margaritas.