In the News

National Pollinator Week: • was founded and is led by the Pollinator Partnership dedicated exclusively to the…

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Wednesday, 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Houston Chapter of NPAT Texas Prairie Restoration: One Goal, Multiple Approaches. How past land use dictates restoration efforts. • Andy…

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Pedaling the Prairie - Chisholm Trail Park Wednesday, from 6 – 7pm Chisholm Trail Community Center, 4936 McPherson Blvd, Fort…

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Prairie Facts

Gulf Prairies and Marshes

Virtually all of this region has been moderately to severely grazed by domesticated cattle. Limited crop production occurs in the Sand Plains. In the past the region has been called the “Wild Horse Prairie” because of the large herds of feral horses roaming here in the 19th century.

The Gulf Prairies and Marshes Area occupies approximately 9,500,000 acres along the coast of Texas. The Gulf Prairies and Marshes region is a nearly level, slowly drained plain less than 150 feet in elevation, dissected by streams and rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. The region includes the barrier islands lining the coast which protect the shoreline from the constant buffeting of harsher ocean waves, and the highly productive estuaries and marshes that support a thriving fishing economy.

Rainfall varies from 20 to 50 inches per year distributed fairly uniformly throughout the year. The growing season is usually more than 300 days, with high humidity and warm temperatures. Surficial and windblown sands and dunes characterize this region’s soils. Soils on the Gulf Prairies and Marshes are acid sands, sandy loams, and clays. Sandy loams predominate, with clays occurring in river bottoms.

Vegetation is primarily grassland types but with extensive oak mottes and salt marshes including sacaton and small areas of brush. The oak scrub has become much more extensive at the expense of grassland. Much of the area has been invaded by trees and brush such as mesquite, prickly pear, oaks, and acacias. Tall bunch grasses are the dominant climax species. At settlement certain areas of the gulf prairies contained extensive cane breaks, the cane being the native Arundinaria gigantea.

Most of the lower lands are in large cattle ranches. Uplands in the Gulf Prairies are ranching interspersed with farming.

The climax vegetation of the Gulf Prairies is mostly tall grass prairie, with some post oak savannah. Much of the area has been invaded by trees and brush. Examples of these are mesquite, live oaks, prickly pear and acacias. The principal prairie grasses are big bluestem, seacoast bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium var. littoralis), Indiangrass, eastern gamagrass, gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), species of Panictum and others. Introduced grasses, such as Bermuda and carpet grass, are common in pastures and have escaped into uncultivated areas. The families Amaranthaceae and Chenopodiaceae are well-represented in the Coastal Prairies and Marshes (Correll and Johnson). Carex, Cyperus, Eleocharis, Juncus, Scirpus, several cordgrasses (Spartina spp.) and seashore saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) are found in the salt marshes.