Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mitchell Lake Audubon Center Fall Festival

Last Saturday I joined friends at the beautiful Mitchell Lake Audubon Center just southeast of downtown San Antonio for their annual Fall Festival.  The local Audubon Texas group has restored this beautiful 1910 home as a center.  The home was moved to the site from the McNay Art Museum east of downtown.

Loved the matching bird house.

This was my first visit to Mitchell Lake and the large native plant and butterfly garden on site was a pleasant surprise.

Cowpen daisies (Verbesina encelioides) is one I'm adding to my garden next year.

Booths for gardening groups and related businesses were set up near the gardens and center.

Cisterns like this one near the center building are used throughout Texas to hold rain water for use in irrigation.

Native Poinsettia (Euphorbia cyathophora)

Datura wrightii, our native datura.  Grows from Southern California to Florida.

Mounds of native asters were in full bloom along the trails.  Goldenrod and Asters are a beautiful combination

Gorgeous Maxmilian Sunflowers (Helianthus maxmiliani) standing tall against the blue sky

Golden Ball Lead Tree (Leguminosae Leucaena retusa)

True to the sign, butterflies were out in abundance



Melody took a photo of a butterfly on my hat.  The snout butterfly rode around on my hat for several minutes!

This photo is for Greg at Gardening With Greggo.  Dr. Calvin Finch, retired extension agent, driving tours around the lake.

Mitchell Lake is one of only two natural lakes in Texas and was used by the Spanish in the 18th century as a water source for livestock.  The pipes where the pelicans are lined up keep shoreline erosion to a minimum.  We didn't see any alligators although we were told they do show up in the lake from time to time. Alligators are native to South Texas but usually nearer the coast.  San Antonio is about 100 miles inland.

It's hard to believe now but Mitchell Lake was used as a wastewater dump by the city until about 30 years ago.

Children preparing for a guided nature walk on the Native Plant Trail, the backpacks provided by the center contain all kinds of fun gear for studying nature.

A trail marker.

Food trucks have taken the place of concession stands almost everywhere now.  The back of the big truck (straight ahead) is a barbeque pit--fresh and way better than hot dogs.   I had a freshly grilled chicken taco with avocado on a homemade tortilla from the red and yellow trailer.  Yummy!

I was delighted to find this newly planted display of native grasses because it's a lot easier to identify them when you've seen them in person than by searching randomly on the internet.  So I don't bore those of you who are not into this, I'm presenting all 13 in collage format and will follow up as I identify some of the wild grasses growing in my yard and around the neighborhood.

Glare from the lens is usually unsightly but this rainbow was too cool to pass up!

Large native plants along the road to the lake.  On the right the NSA tower is collecting data on invasive species.  Ha ha.

Huge Mexican Olive in full bloom

Mexican beautyberry with its darker berries.

The cactus garden was another surprise.  Not all of these are native Texas plants, but most of them do well in our climate.  The gardens at Mitchell Lake are planted and maintained by volunteers.  My thanks to Charles Bartlett (listed on the upper left of the sign below) for his help in identifying plants featured in this post.

Claret Cup Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus), named for its flowers, is a native Texan and just recently added to my garden.

Some are still blooming for fall.

Colorful glass marbles mixed in the gravel, I need to try this a couple of places.

A number of the new pads on this opuntia were shaped like hearts, perhaps because they love this beautiful place.

Mitchell Lake has come back to life in a magnificent way, thanks to the hard work of many local gardeners and the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center volunteers.


  1. When I first installed my gravel garden, I had planned to throw several handfuls of glass marbles into the gravel to brighten it up. I'm still tweaking the plantings there, so I haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe next year. This looks like an interesting garden, with lots to see.

    1. I like the idea of marbles better than the recycled glass because they are brighter and you can move them around.

  2. I'm trying to identify native grasses in my meadow, so I can decide which plants should stay or go. This is hard because to my untrained eye most of these grasses look the same. I think when they bloom it gets a little easier to differentiate them. That's great that they actually identify them with markers. Grasses deserve more respect :)

    1. Absolutely Ally, the grass ID center is an awesome idea and I look forward to using this resource. When they bloom is when you can tell if they are too weedy.

  3. What a lovely place! I've never seen (or at least I didn't notice it when I traveled there) the Mexican Beautyberry before. I like the darker berries, although the bright purple of the American Beautyberry is wonderful, too. Sounds like you had a very pleasant time at the center--including the heart-shaped cactus pads and the butterfly on your hat!

    1. It was a beautiful day. The Mexican Beautyberry seems to have caught on more recently. I hadn't heard of it when I planted the American Beautyberry many years ago.

  4. I'm always amazed that grand old houses like that can be moved successfully, but even more impressive is the skill involved in creating that tiny miniature version for the birds.

    1. The bird house was beautifully done and seemed to be a scale model of the house which is impressive skill.

  5. Lovely place. I will have to stop in when I'm up that way. Loved the birdhouse. Thanks for sharing all the beautiful gardens here on your blog. I sure enjoy it.

    1. I enjoy sharing these beautiful spots with you.

  6. Always enjoy your tours. Your plants are so different from those that we grow (well mostly) and so lovely!


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