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.