Lawther – Deer Park Prairie
Location: Harris County
Region: Gulf Coast Prairies and Marshes
Size: 51 acres
Ownership: Owned by NPAT with conservation easement held by Bayou Land Conservancy.
A 51-acre prairie is a fine example of one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. It’s been called a “platinum prairie,” and is home to more than 300 species of native plants. Animals that live here include pocket gophers, three-toed box turtles and Cajun chorus frogs. Resident birds include Eastern meadowlarks, black-bellied whistling ducks, sedge wrens, white-tailed kites and many others. Less than 1 % of the original 9-million acres of coastal prairie of Texas and Louisiana remains. Only a few of the remaining sites are of high quality, and even fewer can be found within an urban area. This prairie is sometimes called a Cajun prairie because it is often a wet prairie with many species similar to ones found in rare Louisiana coastal prairies. The micro-topography is quite complex with numerous depressional ponds and pimple mounds.
Jason Singhurst, a botanist with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, studied the flora and plant communities and in 2018 published a paper in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas. Jason describes six plant community associations and 346 native plant species! This is more species than in other upper coastal prairies that have been studied and is especially remarkable considering that the Deer Park Prairie is the smallest. See article below.
This prairie is located in the heart of the Houston metroplex and within the city of Deer Park. It was slated to be another housing development when it was discovered in 2011. A fundraising effort was led by Bayou Land Conservancy in 2013. Through the efforts of many conservation groups and individuals in the Houston area, around the state and even the U.S., the funds were raised. After purchasing the property, the Bayou Land Conservancy donated it to the Native Prairies Association of Texas. NPAT and their Houston chapter are now stewards the prairie. Bayou Land Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the property to protect it from development in perpetuity.
This prairie offers opportunities for the local communities to learn more about native coastal prairies and wetlands. The Lawther-Deer Park Prairie Education Program operates in an urban setting and teaches science and math through hands-on interactive learning. Education and awareness are key to the conservation of our Texas native prairies. Learn more about this program.
Regular monthly work days are held on the fourth Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to noon. Projects include helping manage brush and invasive species, maintaining a demonstration garden and helping with wildlife surveys. To find out more about volunteering at the prairie or to arrange a visit, contact Della Barbato.
- The Houston Chapter has a page with photos and information.
- Follow Lawther – Deer Park Prairie programs and events on Facebook.