First, I would like to say how favored we are here, not just with the soil but that somehow we get more rain (much of the time) than other areas nearby. I was visiting my daughter/grandkids last week when the storms passed through, but returned to find 6 inches of rain in my City Of Austin Grow Green water gauge. At first I couldn’t believe it, but after talking to my next door neighbor, who described her yard being more than 12” deep in water and the flash-flooding making it up past the 2nd step at the front door, I knew it must be true. I wish we had been blessed with that rain all over the entire Central Texas area, and that it might have come a bit slower so soil penetration was more and runoff less. But I will take it however it comes!
I’ll continue to describe some native plants (most from the Southeast U.S. west to East TX) which will thrive in the sandy/sandy loam and acidic soils of the Lost Pines area nearby:
Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda) Many of us here in Smithville took these fast-growing evergreen trees for granted, until the fires of early September 2011. We lost thousands of acres of those trees over 3-4 days time, and they now have a treasured status and are being replanted through fire recovery programs. Ultimate size can be from 100-160 feet tall with great age. There is a variation on the native species specific to the Lost Pines area, and you should find/plant it as it is more drought –tolerant than the commonly available type.
Parsley Hawthorn (Crataegus marshalii) Parsley hawthorn is a beautiful small tree (to 25’ high and wide) covered with clusters of white flowers with red stamens in early spring, followed by lacey, light green parsley-shaped leaves and red fruit in the fall. It is commonly found at the edge of woods in the eastern part of the state, and can tolerate moderately dry soils as long as they are acidic.
Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) Red buckeye is a deciduous clump-forming shrub or small tree with an irregular rounded form. It grows 10-20’ tall and nearly as wide. Showy, upright, panicles of red to orange-red tubular flowers appear in spring. Dark green leaves are attractive in spring and early summer, but usually begin to decline and (in dry years) go completely drought-deciduous before fall. Smooth encapsulated seeds are poisonous and are avoided by most wildlife. It is typically found in low wooded areas, and on wooded slopes and along streams. Flowers are attractive to hummingbirds. I had large quantities of these small trees on my land near Alum Creek and Gotier Trace Road, but they (and all the understory trees) were burned out in the fire. I am looking for them to return from seed.
Red Maple (Acer rubrum) Growing rapidly to 70 ft high or more, this Southeastern native has typical Maple shaped leaves that turn a brilliant red in the fall. I like to use this tree in residential plantings because it grows much taller than wide, and can therefore be used to shade the home without the need for planting it so close that limbs overhang the roof.
Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) This large evergreen tree grows 40-80 feet tall and 30-40 feet wide. The pyramidal shape, large glossy leaves, and huge fragrant white flowers in summer are a beautiful addition to the landscape, but these trees are for the larger yard or park. They require some supplemental irrigation in summer, especially during drought. It is difficult if not impossible to garden under this Magnolia (due to root competition and leaf litter) so they look best if you allow the lower limbs to remain and cover the trunk to nearly the ground.
White Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) These native, small, round-headed trees to 20’ high and wide are not found locally, but are also native to the SE and will grow here if given some supplemental water during dry periods. Lightly fragrant white flowers in spring are followed by dark blue oval fruits in summer. I saw one of these blooming along a parkway in Houston just last week and they are really beautiful when in bloom.