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A mixture of grasses and wildflowers, once covered vast areas of Texas, including the Texas Hill Country. Mixed grass prairies were the dominant habitat of the Hill Country prior to European settlement in the mid-nineteenth century. Prairies in this area were more related to savannah habitats where grasslands and mixed woodlands were competing. The prairie grasses contained both long and short grasses, including big and little bluestem, switchgrass and various gramas. Prairies depend on periodic wildfires to keep the trees from invading their territories. Grasses send down deep root systems to channel water into the sub-stratum, as well as keeping the soil loose, yet free from erosion. Prairies have both grasses and annual and perennial wildflowers, or forbs. Post-settlement land practices did not include periodic burning; therefore; grasslands lost their battle with the invading trees. Today less than one percent of the once vast prairie lands in Texas remain. Notice the harvester ant mound near the trail. Be careful that these ants do not sting you. These ants are in decline in the Hill Country partly because of pressure from imported red fire ants. Unfortunately the Texas Horned Lizard (Horned Toad) is also in decline because the harvester ants are one of this reptile’s favorite food sources. Horned Lizards were once very common in this area.

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