Thursday, October 9, 2014

SHSU-Botanical Research (Field Sketch) Pecan Tree, Part 2

I have always thought Pecan trees were one of the magnificent trees that grow in the State, I could eat the nuts by the handfuls, they are one of my favorite snacks.

So working on the Houston Museum grounds has given me a even newer respect for these wonderful specimens, and can see why they were named to represent Texas as our state tree.

The Pecan tree also known as Cary Illioninesis, is a deciduous species of the Hickory tree, which is native to Mexico, South Central and the South Eastern regions of the United States.

My Field Sketches

The word Pecan comes from the Native American Algonquian tribe and means, "a nut requiring a stone to crack.". The Spaniards called the nut, tuerca de la arruga, which translates to wrinkle nut.

Actually pecans are not really nuts, but are a fruit called, Dupe, with a single stone or pit surrounded by a husk.  That husk when immature is green in color and turns brown when mature. 


Pecan trees can live up to 300 years and produce that many years too.  Native Americans used pecans as a food source because this fruit is 2-5x more beneficial in calories per unit of weight than wild game.

The wood is also very valuable, it makes good furniture, flooring and as most Texans know, great for smoking meats.  Yum.
The fruit makes wonderful dishes too, a Pecan Pie recipe.

UR TURN:  Have a favorite experience or recipe you want to share about Pecans, please share.

Until Next Time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

SHSU Botanical Research (Field Study) Pecan Tree, Part 1

This a little known fact about one of the Pecan trees planted 15' from another famous Pecan tree near the Sam Houston Woodland home site. 

Did you know that Senator Phil Gram planted it in 1987?  Yes, in fact he was there on the Museum grounds for several reasons.  First to commemorate the 151st anniversary of Sam Houston's election as President of the Republic of Texas, and to convince Texas leaders to restore funding for the complex.

A copy of actual newspaper article photo of the event
The same tree planted by the Senator
as it looks in 2014
The tree sapling that started this chain of events was planted by Sam Houston back in 1847.  His granddaughter, Mrs. Jennie Morrow Decker of Houston recants the story.  She tells that Houston was on a trip home in his horse drawn buggy and was having difficulty with a lazy horse.  He was in need of a whip and improvised by using a Pecan tree sapling growing near a creek that he pulled it out.  When arriving home Houston realized the sapling still had viable roots and decided to plant the tree.
That little sapling grew to 13 feet in circumference, and 100 feet tall.  The tree lived until 1974 until the water table dried up. 

Texas is recently enduring another season of drought.  Unfortunately more trees on the grounds have died, but Peter, Grounds Manager, came up with a creative way to reuse the recent loss of trees.  He had the trunks made into seats.  The public seems to love using these for photo opportunities.  Halloween brought a young mom and her toddler to use the seat for their photos.

Fortunately the Great Grandson Tree
of the original sapling
planted by Sam Houston lives on.
Many of its' seedlings were transplanted around the property and the State Capitol grounds.  This native tree is very prolific in nut production and the excess fruit was distributed to Texas schools and colleges around Sam Houston State University.  So famous was Houston's Pecan Tree it was adopted as our State Tree.
The next blog post will give more detail of these trees Field Sketches and more interesting facts.
Until Next Time.

Monday, October 6, 2014

SHSU Botanical Research (Field Sketch) Yellow Groove Bamboo, PART 2

The Museum complex site where you find the bamboo growing is nestled behind Sam Houston's home and also is fondly known as the "Bamboo Forest." This plant species grows quickly and is invasive as a result has taken over much of the area, leading the groundskeeper to busily thin these plants, making it more manageable.

My first impressions while visiting the site was not only how impressive the number of Bamboo plants growing, but how massive the stalks were.  It truly was a forest full of Bamboo.

As I sat down to draw, I noticed a slight breeze which caused the Bamboo to sway creating a musical clanging noise. I felt like I was being serenaded by a giant wind chimes. 

The finished Field Sketch
Here are some of the interesting facts I learned about Bamboo:
There are over 1000 species of the Poaceae family which grows up to one meter per day.  The plant spreads by sending out underground stems called rhizomes which are classified as either "clumpers" or "runners.". If you have a choice the clumper is the preferable choice, because it is not as invasive and better at soil stabilization.

Although Bamboo is a grass it is strong enough to support a person 300 Ft. in the air.  Many parts of Asia use Bamboo instead of steel as a major construction material to build site scaffolding.  Architects call it "vegetal steel.".  Bamboo can be bound together to form posts, beams of a house or cables of a suspension bridge.

Bamboo is so versatile it can be carved into utensils, split and woven into mats, bent and shaped into objects both graceful and utilitarian, and laminated into floors which are harder than oak.  It is even being seriously looked at in Africa as a material to build inexpensive bicycle frames to provide a cheap method of transportation.

In Asian cuisine, it is the underground rhizomes that forms the bud that is harvested and cut into food called Bamboo Shoots.  The negative side is that rats also love to eat the seeds and then cause problems spreading rodent borne diseases.

UR:TURN: What is your favorite Asian cuisine that uses Bamboo Shoots, or have you seen or used Bamboo in some unusual way?

Until Next Time.

Friday, October 3, 2014

SHSU Botanical Study (Field Work)-Yellow Groove Bamboo, PART 1

In my last post I asked the question, who planted the yellow groove bamboo?  My investigation into this subject kept leading me back to the same source, Reo Kataoka.  Mr. Kataoka was a gardener employed by Judge Elkins in the 1940's.  One of his jobs was to tend to Judge Elkin's Japanese garden that was planted around his lake home. 

It appears history changed the course of Mr. Karaoke and his family's life with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  The act of war set into motion national concerns about the Japanese Americans living in our country and their possible involvement.  Therefore in 1943 all Japanese Americans were sent to interment camps, including one that was located in the Huntsville area.  The camps locally not only housed the Japanese Americans, but also Germans.

Judge Elkins, did not want to see Reo and his family sent to one of these camps, so instead using his influence was instead able to get him employment caring for the Sam Houston Museum grounds. 

This is were the bamboo comes into play.  As a result, Reo for whatever reasons brought some bamboo seedlings which were planted behind the Houston home over 60 years ago. I can speculate it was to help with soil erosion and possibly even as a privacy screen.

Location behind Houston home.

Possibly planted to prevent soil erosion
and make a privacy screen

After the war his family decided to stay in Huntsville, work and attend school.  The family even opened and operated a successful plant nursery on the East end of Huntsville. 

Obituary article found about Mrs. Kataoka

My next post about the Yellow Bamboo will be showcasing my Field Sketch and interesting facts about this plant.

Until Next Time.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

SHSU Botanical Research Study- PLANT POUNDING

This last Thursday, I spent a wonderful afternoon with Helen Belcher, Education Curator, at the Sam Houston Museum Complex.

She was gracious enough to teach me what was a craft used by Cherokee women.  These women would take rocks instead of  hammers as their pounding tool as a means to extract dye from plants.

You can learn more on my ARTIST BLOG-Learn How To Plant Pound article.

See how I went from:

To this:

UR-TURN:  If you give this craft a try, leave me a comment.  Tell me how you plan to use this method in an artistic endeavor.

Until Next Time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

SHSU Botanical Research- Mexican Plum Tree Facts

Grace Longino Cox is a name that has great significance to the history of the Sam Houston Museum complex.  Grace contributed to the preservation of this important landmark by sharing her talents and passions.. One of those passions was gardening and as a result, these wonderful Mexican Plum trees were planted. 

Interesting Facts about Mexican Plum trees

Texas Wild Edible Plants-Mexican Plum Tree

The larger of the two trees can be found next to the Kitchen building, the other tree is in front of the Bear Bend Cabin stone fireplace.  Peter, the main groundskeeper, believes the oldest tree that Grace planted is approximately 45 years old.


Inside view of the Houston's Kitchen &
A hook that would have been used
to dry plants from their garden

Bear Bend Cabin
Where the men and families stayed
on the San Jacinto river
when they were hunting Bear

Inside views of Bear Bend Cabin

 It was very common for families of this era to use plums in desert making.  I came across this recipe for Plum Pudding from January, 14, 1880.  I may have to give it a try someday.


Boil and mash well one pound potatoes, one-half pound carrots; when cold and one pound each of flour, currants, and raisins, three-quarters pound raw sugar, eight ounces suet, a little salt, and a nutmeg grated; any other spices and candied peels may be added if approved.  Fill your mold very full, tie up closely, and boil four hours; if boiled six hours, the pudding is richer and semi-transparent, and will keep two or three months.

More recipes Other 1800's recipes and  Food Timeline of 1800's,

UR-TURN:  Feel free to comment or share a favorite childhood memory of either picking fruit or a family recipe.

Until Next Time.

SHSU Botanical Study-Mexican Plum Tree (Field Sketch)

It was an enjoyable morning, the first official day of Fall and the temperature was much cooler, only 77 degrees.  Although the Museum and Education Center were closed, the grounds were teaming with activity.

Met a lovely, amicable couple out for their daily morning walk around the park.  They saw me photographing the Mexican Plum tree and commented, it was enjoyable to see the park plants during all their seasonal changes which led into a conversation about this research project.

For several hours I spent sitting on the porch of the Bear Bend Cabin, it was a perfect place for sketching and painting this beautiful tree's foliage, fruit and bark.

Here are my results shown in my Field Journal:

My observations revealed that the leaves of this plant feel very soft and furry.  Its' bark was a silvery grey and with a slightly brownish tint.  The fruit is although very tiny, the size of a dime or nickel,  has a sweet taste once you get past the bitter tasting skin.  I was amazed to find that even in the late Summer and early Fall there was still so much fruit production.  Although most of the fruit had fallen to the ground. 
You could see the fruit peeking through the blades of grass
and had to watch out where you stood,
for the ants were enjoying the fruit too.
My next adventure and blog will be as a result of being on the grounds tomorrow, Thursday.  I plan to meet with Helen, the Education Curator, to learn how to plant pound onto fabric and extract the dye and also leave an impression.

Be sure to read the following posted blog entry to learn more about the Mexican Plum tree.

Until Next Time.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

SHSU Botanical Study-More Botanical Information on FERNS

I was sharing with my husband what interesting facts I just learned concerning ferns in my Honors Botany lecture on Tuesday and realized I should share it with you too.

So here goes, did you know that ferns have been on the Earth for 350 million years and there are 12,000 species?  Ferns are also the species that bridges the gap between Algae and the other species of plants: Moses, Gymnosperms, and Angiosperms.

They need to be close to a water source like a pond, lake, spring, or marsh for their reproduction.  When it is time for reproduction the female ferns and the male ferns release spores into the air, but it is when they land into a water source that fertilization occurs.  This is what causes a high rate of hybridization, because the females will let different varieties of ferns fertilize her spores.  This is what is called intersexual competition by the females of the species.

Leaves of ferns are known as fronds and these plants do not have secondary growth.  In other words they do not have woody stems, but instead use their energy is used for primary growth consisting of leaves and roots.

These leaves are called Fronds and the new growth are known as Fiddleheads, because that is what they resemble.  These Fiddleheads then will unfurl revealing the Fronds.

So there you have it, Botany 1411 about ferns in a nut shell.

Until Next Time.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

SHSU Botanical Reseach- Mexican Plum Tree (Field Work) part 1

Now that the wonderful rain and cold front has passed through Central Texas, I can again safely venture outside and work on my research. The grounds crew will be busy this week thinning out the Bamboo thicket, so I need to choose a different site to work.

Feeling the cooler temperatures outside gives me a clue as to where I should light.  Fall is peeking right around the corner and so will the holiday season and that means tasty foods.

In doing some preliminary research I found some very interesting information on the probable food uses of the wild plums found on Mexican Plum trees produced on the Houston's home site. 

Mexican Plum by old kitchen 

Some of the tasty stone fruit

To wet your taste buds here is a modern recipe for wild plums:
Plum Jam Canning Recipe.  I will share some of the historic 1800's recipes I found in a later post.

Okay that settles it, Mexican Plum tree it is this week.

UR-TURN: So what is your favorite Plum recipe?  Feel free to share .

Until Next Time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

SHSU Botanical Research-Margaret Houston's Fern (Field Work)

Historical Marker about Margaret Houston

Margaret Houston's ferns growing by the Woodland Homesite

 The plaque in front of the Woodland Home honoring Mrs. Margaret Houston is not the only item that draws attention to wife of Sam Houston.  Near this historical marker at the corner of the white picket fence you will find lush green woodland ferns growing underneath a large tree.  These ferns at this time have not been identified other than by their common name: Margaret's Ferns, or their botanical name:Thelypteris (Kunthii or Lindeheimeri). These ferns can typically be found growing in this area of the U.S. in marshes or close to ponds, and they have some medicinal properties.  As medicinal plants they have been known to help with asthma, bronchitis and pleurisy.  That may be why the Houston family had them on their property.  These particular ferns disappeared from the home site for a while, but happily they voluntarily reappeared.  
There has been much interest in these delicate looking plants, in fact a science graduate student, Tracy Ellen Willis, wrote her thesis paper on this fern.  There is a copy of her thesis in the NGL and Museum Library.

These field pages show my Field Sketches and history documentation

It has been a very enjoyable experience being on the Museum and Homesite grounds working to capture the beauty of these historic trees and other plants.  I decided to take a moment to pause and realize that where I sit to work this famous family actually lived, played and entertartained some very important guests to Texas history.

When I was on site Monday and Tuesday of this week the weather was still hot and humid.  None the less hearing the ducks and geese, seeing the squirrels chasing each other around tree trunks, seeing families enjoying strolls or feeding the ducks around the pond makes my work so fun.  

These pages show photos of the ferns and my Plein Aire (working on site) mixed media field painting 

I decided to finish this painting in my personal art studio, the heat became too intense for me to continue to work outside, besides I needed to get to my Printmaking studio class.  When I got home that evening, I had an idea that I decided to run with,  adding DMC embroidery floss stitching to create some of the fern plants.  The mixed media art was created by using watercolor, colored and watercolor pencils, ink pens, and DMC embroidery floss.

The next Field studies will revolve around the Mexican Plum trees found by the kitchen and chimney of another building.  I hope to take advantage of the cold front moving into our area this Friday and be the grounds Saturday making a new Field sketch.  If you are out and about please come by and say hello.

Until Next Time.

Many Blessings,

Monday, September 8, 2014

NGL's OUT OF THE BOX Guest Blog Post

Felicia Williamson in Special Collections invited me to write a guest post about my Exhibit on their blog.  Well it is now up and running.

OUT OF THE BOX-Guest Post-Laurie Grawl

Love to hear if you have made it by to see the exhibit and what you think of my project.
Also, I am busy working on site these days at the Sam Houston Memorial Park Complex.  Today I worked on a Field Sketch of Margaret Houston's Ferns growing by the Woodland Home.  I plan tomorrow to paint a watercolor of them.

If you are in the area and see someone wearing a bright red-orange hat working on art, it is me, please say Hello.

My next blog post will be telling about these ferns and showing my sketches and painting.

Until Next Time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

SHSU Botanical Study Continues to move forward

As the new Fall Semester begins to move forward, so does progress in my Botanical study.  Tuesday, 9/2/14 proved to be exciting for several reasons including people who are important to the success of this study which I am optimistic will help people of different ages and backgrounds.

The morning started out with getting to meet my Honors Botany professor and fellow classmates.  The class appears to be full of surprises.  Then afterwards I headed on to the Sam Houston Museum Complex, in particular to the Education Center, in hopes to meet the new Education Curator, Helen. Belcher.  We had previously spoken on the phone, and our meeting was production.  Helen is such a pleasant and helpful person.  We had the opportunity to chat a while.

I was able to gain access to a map of the grounds and literature with some information concerning some of the plants that grow in the Complex.

One of the most interesting stories that Helen shared, which she is not sure if it is just  an Urban Legend, concerns how the Bamboo which grows behind Sam Houston's home got planted there.
Bamboo thicket behind Houston's home
The story has gotten me curious, like a History Detectives, I am going to try and investigate this story further.  I will tell you what she shared.  If anyone who reads this post can help solve the mystery, please contact me.

The story is that Judge Elkins, who owned a large portion of land around Lake Elkins in the 1940's, employed a Japanese gardener.  Then when Pearl Harbor was bombed during WWII and Japanese Americans were being sent to interment camps, he found a way to keep this man from having to endure imprisonment.  So he supposedly contacted the grounds keeper of the Sam Houston Complex to give this man employment.  It was at this time when this Japanese gardener brought with him some bamboo seedlings that were planted behind Houston's home.

Helen is also looking in their library for information concerning the rare ferns that grow around the aqua duct area.  I am having so much fun discovering these little jewels of information to share.

If this was not exciting enough, I was introduced to the Huntsville Mayor and Board of Director Member, Mac Woodward.  He was passing through the facility.  Helen was kind enough to introduce me to him and as a result after the NGL exhibit is finished in October, it will be moved to the Education Center and exhibited in one of their foyer cases.

Later on a lunch I ran into Josh Mizrany who is an Arborist and SHSU Alumni.  He is thankfully still willing to assist me in this adventure and share his invaluable information.

Last but not least.  I was able to meet up with Aubrie Walker, a SHSU Journalist student.  She was updating information to be used in an upcoming feature article on the SHSU website (Today at SAM).

And my Printmaking Professor, Kate, has graciously agreed to help teach me some important papermaking techniques that will facilitate the making of Fine Art from my research in the Spring Semester.

I cannot wait to meet with Martin, my Research Sponsor tomorrow morning.  I hope he is as encouraged as I am.

Until Next Time.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Fall 2014 Semester Begins with more to come.....

Exciting time in the progress of the Botanical Study with the new Fall Semester starting.  The project is now a two semesters long as an Independent Study for Academic Distinction.

Summer is over and tomorrow I will be meeting with my sponsor,  Martin Amourous to go over my next steps.  Have lots to tell him already.  Be looking for a future Facebook Page to LIKE

I now have installed my first research exhibit on campus.  It is in the Newton Gresham Library 2nd Floor Dan Rather Cases, with my artwork and initial discoveries.

Please come for a look and feel free make comments about the project on my blog.

Also, sign up to become a blog Follower and see what I will be doing next and where.  

Until Next Time.