Published on November 6, 2017 • Last updated on July 9th, 2022

An Afternoon of Grasslands and Wine

An Afternoon of Grasslands and Wine
by Lisa Stokdyk and Joyce Quam

Mathews Prairie – Photo by Jason Singhurst

Eager prairie nerds gathered for a convivial afternoon of prairie wonderment and wine to benefit the purchase of a parcel of remnant prairie in northeast Texas, befittingly called the Mathews Prairie after Paul Mathews who grew up on said prairie. In 1998, Paul was awarded the Lone Star Land Steward Award by Texas Parks & Wildlife Department for his management of the prairie.

Third stop at LBJ National Grasslands – Photo by Lisa Stokdyk

An afternoon tour of the LBJ Grasslands was chosen partly because of the proximity (near Decatur, Texas) to the vastness and richness of the LBJ National Grasslands, and the luck of having a family owned winery, Marker Cellars, nearby

Sadly, sod busting and ranching almost completely destroyed the natural flora and fauna of the Great Plains, culminating in the Dust Bowl and deprivation in the Great Depression. Recovery and Appropriation Acts in 1933 and 1935 allowed the Federal Government to purchase and restore damaged lands and to resettle destitute families. Twenty National Grasslands were established and are managed by the USDA Forest Service. Patchworked with private farm and ranch lands, the Grasslands are managed for multiple uses such as hiking, biking, birding, horseback riding, photography, hunting, and fishing.

Whitlow wort – Photo by Lisa Stokdyk

We stopped in two locations; one representing a lower succession prairie that is undergoing regular managed burns, as well as a higher succession parcel indicated by a variety of grama grasses, compass plant, fragrant sumac, pale yucca, false gaura, Indiangrass, Liatris, and the enchanting yellow Whitlow-wort.

Our fearless leaders were Suzanne Tuttle, recently retired Director of Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge and Pat Merkord, Executive Director of Native Prairies Association of Texas. Upon arrival to the LBJ National Grasslands, author and ecologist Mary Curry met the group to talk about natural resource management there. Mary is a longtime volunteer of the Grasslands and has been leading bird hikes there for years. On the chartered bus, novices and nerds alike enjoyed information and tantalizing plant/grass ID books that Suzanne shared from her personal collection.

Marker Cellars Winery – Photo by Lisa Stokdyk

Wine sharing came next after the prairie tromping. Departing the Grasslands, the bus drove backroads through the prairie to Marker Cellars winery. Eight selections were offered for sampling along with descriptions and explanations of the nuanced wine-making process. Surely all were impressed by the multitude of white and red wines offered by Marker Cellars. The afternoon concluded with our bus silhouetted in the sunset as we drove back to Fort Worth.


Categories: Fort Worth Chapter