2014 Prairie Celebration

Thank you to All Who Attended, Volunteered, and Sponsored!

On Saturday, April 5, NPAT (Native Prairies Association of Texas) & HNPAT (Houston Chapter of NPAT) had a great Prairie Celebration at the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie Preserve.  The event commemorated NPAT’s being the new owners of this rare prairie.  As a thank you to all the people who participated in last summer’s amazing fundraising led by the Bayou Land Conservancy to save this prairie and as an opportunity for all to visit and learn about our coastal prairie natural heritage, free tours were offered throughout the day followed by an evening fundraising dinner at Monument Inn.  As the day’s events showed, there are many people who love and are dedicated to the Deer Park Prairie, many people who give their time and money to it.

If you took photos and would not mind having them posted on HNPAT’s flickr account, https://www.flickr.com/photos/hnpat/,  please send them to HNPAT@TexasPrairie.org.

 o get higher resolution files of these photos, email HNPAT@TexasPrairie.org.

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Bald Eagle by Mary Anne Weber

Bald Eagle by Mary Anne Weber

Although rain was predicted, the weather was great! Cloudy and cool all day, but no rain meant volunteers and visitors could comfortably stay outdoors without needing to hide under canopies.  Because of Hazel Potvin’s hard work in publicizing this event, well over 120 visitors (about 180 had registered) attended the ten themed tours. All visitors were greeted at the registration desk by a realistic model of a red wolf lent by Barbara Willy.

Unfortunately, an official photographer was not appointed, so photos of the day are sparce.  Kirsti Harms, NPAT President, shared some of her photos with NPAT’s facebook page.  Kirsti came all the way from Austin for the day to attend the celebration and helped where ever she was needed. Please send us your photos!

Sundew by Kirsti Harms

Sundew by Kirsti Harms

The early birders lead by Bayou Land Conservancy’s Damien Carey heard the meadowlarks and saw a white-tailed kite, Caracara and other “habitat indicator birds”.  Mary Anne Weber, Education Director of Houston Audubon Society, led the 10:00 a.m. tour with Helen James, a Gulf Coast Master Naturalist. Only after she was home, did Mary Anne realize that she had captured a photo of a bald eagle flying overhead.  Attendees of the basic prairie tours learned how prairies are an important part of the natural history of this area and why much less than 1% still remains.  Visitors saw common spring wildflowers such as Indian paintbrush, blue-eyed grass, and lyre-leaf sage as well as the thumb-nail size, insect-eating red sundews and the now rare yellow fringed sneezeweed.

In the afternoon, Barbara Willy, Texas Master Naturalist of the Coastal Prairie Chapter and Brazos Bend State Park volunteer, showed crawfish chimneys and crawfish claws on the trail to the two groups of children she led.  The only people disappointed that the weather was cool and cloudy were those on Kelly Walker‘s butterfly tour, since butterflies are more active in the warm sun.  However, they enjoyed the tour because Kelly, a member of BEST (Butterfly Enthusiasts of Southeast Texas) and NPSOT-H (Native Plant Society of Texas – Houston), was able to tell them the association of the plants they saw and butterflies.  Pat Merkord, Executive Director of NPAT, and her husband Glenn Merkord led the large 3:00 p.m. crowd, telling them about prairies basics and future plans for this site. Then Jaime Gonzalez, Education Director of Katy Prairie Conservancy and prairie interpreter extraodinaire gave his usual fascinating insights into the role of prairies, Houston’s Heartland.  The last tour was led by Dennis Jones, of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, who not only talked about the history of the prairie, but rubbed his hands through what we all thought was a fire ant mound.  Then he stood up with a satisfied expression and said, “Gophers.”

Our visitors enjoyed the different knowledge that each of the tour guides brought. We were happy to meet many of our new neighbors, who came and visited as well as our supporters and friends, old and new.

The many volunteers made the entire day proceed smoothly for our visitors. Our sincere thanks to the church, Primera Iglesia Bautista, for their generosity in allowing us use their parking lot and to the team work between Nancy Taylor, who made the initial suggestion when she came and helped clean up the house, Jaime Gonzalez who left a phone message for the church in Spanish, and Glenn Merkord who went there personally on a Sunday to ask for permission.   Glenn Merkord also mowed the front lawn and re-mowed the path for the Prairie Celebration.  Jana Pellusch came for parking lot duty at 7:30 a.m. on Prairie Celebration Day! Thanks also to others who worked the registration table and parking lot duty: Hazel Potvin, Helen James,Mary Anne Weber, Vicki Vroble, also of Houston Audubon, Kirsti Harms, and Silvia and Tom Gederberg. They and we thank Diane Humes for organizing the food for the volunteers and HEB at 3601 Center Street that donated $40 gift card for the volunteer’s lunch, snacks, and drink.

140405 LShen with LKnowles camera - IMG_5774The about 70 people who went to the Monument Inn for dinner were greeted with a beautifully decorated room: colorful spring flowers in mason jars with turquoise ribbons, a burlap runner topped with the flowers, photos of Deer Park Prairie, and seed paper by NPAT’s Gretchen Vollner, who made them using waste papers from her master’s thesis mixed with coastal prairie seeds.  (Again, here is the instruction for use of the seed paper.).  The gorgeous decorations were planned and designed by Beth Clark of Clark Condon Associates, Inc., who with her colleague Mary Keilers went to Monument Inn around noon with their car loaded full of materials and flowers to set up the decorations. Beth also designed and printed the invitation that our immediate neighbors received; Kirsti designed the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie Preserve logo using DonVerser’s photo, the flyer, and the dinner agenda.  Thanks also to Don Verser, Pauline Singleton, Kelly Walker, and Susie Doe who gave us permission to use prints of their Deer Park Prairie photos.

140405 LShen with LKnowles camera - IMG_5777 CrMedAlong the front and back, were the many tables full of silent auction items requested, gathered and many even donated by Sally and Hank Hilliard who did a fantastic job creating the descriptive signs and the auction bid pages and arranging them on the tables. Thanks to Celeste Mead and Janis Terry for taking care of registration.  Judy Thomas made the donation box,  represented NPAT, and told visitors about future maintenance and educational activities at Deer Park Prairie that would need funding. A very special thanks to Kelly Walker, who is completely and energetically dedicated to prairies and nature. Kelly rescued and potted a car full of Liatris acidota and brought them to the dinner to give to anyone willing to donate a minimum of $10 to NPAT. (We have a few more left, if anyone is interested.)  Thanks also to Glenn Merkord, Jaime Gonzalez, and Hank Hilliard for processing the silent auction funds and Linda Knowles for the loan of her camera, so that at least some photos of the event were taken.  We were very happy that Lisa Gray was there to be honored, for without her early articles giving legitimacy to this project and her supporting articles during last summer’s fundraising, this project might not have been successful.140405 LShen with LKnowles camera - IMG_5773 CrMed

Providing an entertaining dinner program were Jaime Gonzalez, emcee, Dennis Jones, who inspired a love of nature with his talk about growing up and playing on the prairies that were in this area, and Pat Merkord, who has been working tirelessly on Deer Park Prairie since NPAT became its owner and who talked about what to expect for the future of this prairie.  One can only hope that in the future, another child will do what Dennis once did – lay on the prairie holding his/her breath, playing dead in hopes of capturing a vulture. However, knowing now what vultures do, when frightened, I hope that she/he, like Dennis, does not ever catch one.

The evening ended with supporters taking home their silent auction items.  For those we want to thank our silent auction sponsors, list in the next two pages!

As said in the beginning, success in acquiring the rare Deer Park Prairie resulted from the love of nature, love of prairie by many people.  Success in our Prairie Celebration also resulted from love of this place by the many who participated and volunteered and sponsored!

Thanks to Our Sponsors!

 NPAT and HNPAT thank the following Sponsors of the Prairie Celebration for their generous donations that helped make the event a success! Proceeds from the Silent Auction will be used for Deer Park Prairie.


For the Silent Auction

  • Barbara Keller-Willy donated two Monarch Waystations (each 135 sq. ft.): 3 kinds of not-for-sale native milkweed plants (not just the seeds, but actual plants) plus tropical milkweed, minimum variety of 5 native nectar plants to provide a density of 3-5 plants per square yard,  instructions, consulting, and partial co-labor for the installation of a Monarch Waystation in your garden. (Approx. 15 – 20 plants total). Application form will be compiled but bidder must pay the $16 fee to Monarch Watch for signage and certification.
  • Beth Clark of Clark Condon Associates, Inc., 10401 Stella Link Rd, Houston, donated two gift baskets:
    • one Gift Basket with Organic Wines, Crackers, etc. and
    • one Gift Basket with Gardening Iimplements – trowel, gloves, etc.
  • Celeste Mead donated two Watercolors of Deer Park Prairie
  • Coastal Prairie Partnership, http://prairiepartner.org, donated the book, Cajun Prairie: A Natural History by Malcolm F. Vidrine
  • Cox Hardware, 1923 Wayside Dr, Houston, donated a Case Bone Handled Pocket Knife
  • Danny and Robin Klaes donated Siix Bottles of French and California Wines and Wine Stopper.
  • Diane Humes is donated two units of her famous Homemade Pepper Jelly (6 jars) in Bag Made of Prairie T-shirts
  • Frame It, 2604 Center St, Deer Park, donated 2 Frames plus Framing for Two 8 x 11 Photographs by Don Verser taken at Deer Park Prairie.
  • Grand Prize Barbecue, 3002 E. Pasadena Frwy 77502, donated Barbeque Dinner for Two
  • Hank Hilliard donated a Bee Collection – A Bee Tea Pot and Honey Jar, Assorted Bee Server Tools, and 4 Honey Bears of Local Hilliard Honey.
  • Hank Hilliard donated a Framed Watercolor of Dove by Marianne Gould
  • HEB, 3601 Center St, Deer Park, donated $30 Gift Card
  • Hilliard Emissions Control, Inc., 3100 Edloe St., donated an assortment of brooches: Porcelain Bird Pin, Mother of Pearl Dove Pin, Sarah Coventry Costume Silver Sea Gull pin, White Sea Gull pin, Mixed-metals Road Runner Pin, Abalone and Sterling Silver Butterfly Pin, Sterling Silver, Pearl and Malachite Dragonfly Pin, Mamselle Gold Plated Butterfly Pin, Orange and Black Enamel Butterfly Pin, Blue Rhinestone Butterfly Pin
  • Houston Arboretum, 4501 Woodway Dr, Houston, TX 77024, donated two Annual Memberships to the Arboretum
  • Houston Ballet, 601 Preston St., Houston, TX 77002, donated 4 Orchestra Seats to the Ballet Modern Masters. Choice of performances: 7:30 PM on May 22, 24, 30, 31, 2014 or 2:00 PM on May 25, June 1, 2014 (pending availability)
  • Houston Chapter – Native Prairies Association of Texas, www.TexasPrairie.org, donated a Large Decorative Blue and White China Bowl.
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science,  5555 Hermann Park Dr, Houston, donated a Family Pack of 8 Tickets that can be used for entrance to the Museum or the Planetarium or the Cockrell Butterfly Center.
  • Joshua’s Native Plants, 502 W 18th St, Houston, donated a Metal Texas Star for the garden
  • Monument Chevrolet,3940 Pasadena Fwy, Pasadena, donated Oil Changes for One Year Coupon
  • Monument Inn, 4406 Independence Pkwy, La Porte, donated $25 Gift Certificate
  • Munro’s Safety Apparel, 802 Center St, Deer Park donated a pair of LaCrosse Hunting Boots
  • Native Prairies Association of Texas donated 1 year Individual Membership
  • Sally Hilliard donated a San Jacinto Battleground Come and Take It T-shirt.
  • Sally Hilliard donated a Butterfly Basket with Butterfly Gardening Book and Assorted Butterfly Objects
  • Sarah Smith, donated a Hand-made Mosaic Table Top.
  • Whole Foods Market, 2955 Kirby Dr, Houston, donated a Gift Basket for a Picnic on the Prairie.

140405 Linda Knowles - IMG_5776CrMed


For Prairie Plant Lovers:  Kelly Walker, plant rescuer extraordinaire, has rescued Liatris acidota, or sharp blazing star, not available in nurseries, from a to be developed prairie remnant near the Katy Prairie and planted them in pots.  These mature corms took years to grow from seed.  They are gifts for donations to NPAT for Deer Park Prairie: minimum $10 / per gallon pots and $15 / larger pots.  The thinner Liatris acidota blooms a bit earlier than the thicker and much taller L. pycnostachya that was in many Deer Park Prairie photos in August/September 2011.  However, according to Thomas Adams, botanist for the Mid-Coast National Wildlife Refuge, the Liatris acidota grows best in clay soil.  They grow in full sun and once established will survive the summer without supplemental irrigation.  Due to their smaller size, they would perhaps work better in a city garden.  See photo of seed collecting in a field of L. acidota at Deer Park Prairie;  L. acidota at Deer Park Prairie, October, 2011http://www.wildflower.org/gallery/result.php?id_image=37177.


Other donations that supported the event:

  • HEB, 3601 Center St, Deer Park, TX 77536, donated $40 gift certificate for food for volunteers
  • Frost Bank donated $100.
  • Many volunteers donated their time!