UP Team: September 2017. Aug to early Sep photos & Upcoming Activities

Scroll down for upcoming activities
Sorry for the late enewsletter. I hope all of you were safe and dry during Hurricane Harvey. My home fortunately did not flood.
I hope you all were checking the UP Team calendar (tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal). Even though an UP Team email was not sent out, the events are on the calendar.  Click on the event and then the “more details” to show all details, including meeting place and parking specifics.
All events have at least one contact person. If you are planning to attend an event and RSVP’ed to the contact person, that person will let you know of any changes.

UP (Urban Prairie) Team Photos August- mid-September

(Anyone wanting original sizes of these photos, email Lan.shen@txgcmn.org.)
Seed Collecting Day at Deer Park Prairie, August 9, 2017.  Martha Richeson brought her granddaughter, 12 years old Natalie, who discovered a plant that had not been seen before at DPP.  It was not on the Deer Park Prairie plant checklist. Martha took a photo and posted it on iNaturalist. She wrote me, ‘”ID of this plant at DPP with seedpods was Arrowhead Rattlepods Crotalaria sagitallis according to ‘sambiology’ ”  Way to go Natalie!


Seed Collecting Day with Memorial Park Conservancy, August 17. Because Memorial Park Conservancy’s Anthony Todd drove us in a Kubota, we saw the entire length of the NE Quadrant of the Memorial Park prairie along the power line. Away from Memorial Drive were areas with Liatris sp.


UP Team Workday at Deer Park Prairie, September 13. Seven volunteers came to collect seeds at Deer Park Prairie: Tom Solomon, Rowena McDermid of UH Clear Lake and her graduate student Descis, Kelli Ondracek, TJ Marks, and Cassidy of Houston Park & Recreation Dept.,  and Kelli’s husband Cullen, who works for the City of Pearland. The Liatris pycnostachya were blooming beautifully and we all got to see a just emerged cicada that was hanging on the front door jam of the house.


UP Team Workday at MD Anderson Prairie, September 15. The team: Irmy and her mother Hildy, Frances (Jaime’s landlady from before he was married), Craig, and Wally Ward (Katy Prairie Conservancy’s board member) worked on the area of the pocket prairie by the power station. They trimmed back the woodies, dug out Vesey grass, and plant sprigs of eastern gama grass. Wally worked so hard that he literally lost his sole.

*****Upcoming Activities*****

Events mid-September, October 2017

Details of all events are on our calendar  tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal.  Check the calendar for location, time, contact information, and other details.
  • Thursday, September 21 (3rd Thursdays): Seed Collecting with Memorial Park Conservancy)
  • Saturday, September 23 (4th Saturdays): Deer Park Prairie Workday
  • Saturday, September 23 (4th Saturdays): Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)
  • Thursday, September 28 (4th Thursdays): Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse in Memorial Park
  • Saturday, September 30: Houston – Native Prairies Association of Texas’ Fall Prairie Day and Bioblitz at Deer Park Prairie (new). Information and registration link at HoustonPrairie.org. Please register, if you would like to join for lunch. Volunteers are needed to participate in the bioblitz and/or to man stations for visitors. 9:00 to 2:00 pm with bird survey at 7:30 am.
Save these future dates:
  • Thursday, October 5 (1st Thursdays): Memorial Park Conservancy Greenhouse Workday (new)
  • Wednesday, October 11 (2nd Wednesdays): Deer Park Prairie Workday & Seed Collecting Day
  • Thursday, October 12 (2nd Thursdays): Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse in Memorial Park
  • Saturday, October 14: HPARD’s Natural Resources Management Program – Hobart Taylor Park Prairie Planting Event (new), 8100 Kenton St., 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Saturday, October 14 (2nd Saturdays): Hermann Park, Whistlestop Prairie Workday (near Japanese Garden)
  • Monday, October 16, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – Willow Waterhole Demonstration Native Plant Gardens
  • Thursday, October 19 (3rd Thursdays): Memorial Park Conservancy Greenhouse Workday
  • Saturday, October 21, HPARD’s Natural Resources Management Program – Stuart Park Prairie Planting Event (new), 7270 Bellfort St., 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Thursday, October 26 (4th Thursdays): Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse at Memorial Park
  • Saturday, October 28, HPARD’s Natural Resources Management Program – Clinton Park Prairie Planting Event (new), 200 Mississippi St., 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
  • Saturday, October 28 (4th Saturdays): Deer Park Prairie Workday
  • Saturday, October 28 (4th Saturdays): Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)
General workday attire/needs: long pants and closed toe shoes. Optional: hat, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt, insect repellent, water. If you have them bring some garden tools like garden gloves, trowel and/or shovel.

Updated 7/13/17: UP (Urban Prairie) Team Events July, 2017

UP (Urban Prairie) Team Events July, 2017

Details of all events (regular and special) are on our calendar tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal

Changed: Friday, July 14, St. Thomas University Prairie, 9:00 am – noon

Join University of St. Thomas students for a workday at their prairie.
Address: 4103 Graustark., Houston, TX 77006
Monday, July 17, Willow Waterhole Demonstration Native Gardens, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
From Hazel Potvin: “We have 8 smallish gardens with concrete walkways around them so people can visit and observe. We are currently trying to get the weeds down in the gardens which were planted in March with plants from the City of Houston Natural Resources Dept. We work from 6-8 in the evenings because of the heat. The address is 5500 block of S. Willow. We drive up into the area but you can park at The Gathering Place at 5310 S. Willow and walk over. ” To RSVP and for more information, contact Hazel Potvin, email: hazelnut856@yahoo.com
May Be Changed. Updates will be posted on calendar next week:  Friday, July 21, Buffalo Bayou Park, Prairie Area Workday, 9:00 am – noon
For detailed information on meeting location and parking, please check the calendar, tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal,  for updates a few days before the event or contact JGonzalez@KatyPrairie.org
Cancelled: Friday, July 28, UH Downtown Pocket Prairie
Reason:  The construction in Johnny Goyen Park, site of the UHD Pocket Prairie, continues and appears unlikely to be completed by July 28th.

Regular monthly UP Team volunteer events are now posted on the calendar: tinyurl.com/UPTeamCal

Check the calendar for details.
  • 1st Saturdays: Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)
  • 2nd Wednesday: Deer Park Prairie Workday
  • 2nd Thursdays: Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse at Memorial Park
  • 2nd Saturdays: Hermann Park, Whistlestop Prairie Workday (near Japanese Garden)
  • 4th Thursdays: Native (and mostly prairie) plant propagation at City of Houston Greenhouse at Memorial Park
  • 4th Saturdays: Deer Park Prairie Workday
  • 4th Saturdays: Hermann Park, Bayou Savannah Workday (near 6520 Almeda)

August Preview:

  • Monday, August 21, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm – Willow Waterhole Demonstration Native Plant Gardens
General workday attire/needs: long pants and closed toe shoes. Optional: hat, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt, insect repellent, water. If you have them bring some garden tools like garden gloves, trowel and/or shovel.

TODAY thru Sat, 4/22: Three UP (Urban Prairie)Team Opportunities

THIS AFTERNOON, 4/20, at Carnegie Vanguard HS: 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
1501 Taft St, Houston, TX 77019, google map goo.gl/maps/9eaejUFV8m52.Telephone of school (713) 732-3690
We will be planting and seeding the Cargnegie Vanguard High School’s roof prairie garden along with teacher Jaime Scott and her students. If the parking lot is full of parents picking up their children at 3:00 pm, park on the neighborhood streets. RSVP to Lan.shen@txgcmn.org by 2:00 pm today to get my cell phone number.

Saturday, April 22, St. Thomas University, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.
Address of the Father Meyers Pocket Prairie is 4106 Graustark, 77006. Google map link: goo.gl/maps/Jq4Cbp9bQw92
Help university students and Dr. Shivas Amin plant the Father Meyers Pocket Prairie, rain or shine unless there is a safety issue. Rain is predicted for part of Saturday morning, so please dress accordingly. Event day contact is Dr. Cassidy Johnson at 832-746-7584. Free street parking is available, but do abide by the “no parking” signs. There is also a parking garage on Graustark for $5 fee. Above is the new sign to be installed shortly.

Saturday, April 22, Deer Park Prairie, 9:00 am – noon

Help maintain this platinum quality prairie by invasive control and weeding the demonstration garden. Someone will be at t1222 E. Purdue Lane, Deer Park, 77536. Please do not park directly in front of our neighbors’ houses. Please park in front of our house and along that side of the street or in the driveway. Please RSVP to Lan.shen@txgcmn.org by 6:30 am, 4/22, for event day contact phone number.

General workday attire/needs: long pants and closed toe shoes. Optional: hat, sunscreen, long-sleeved shirt, insect repellent, water. If you have them bring some garden tools like garden gloves, trowel and/or shovel.

City Nature Challenge:
Houston is ahead in number of species! But Dallas got us beat by number of people posting and number of observations. However, photos taken with date stamp in the time period can be posted up to either Friday, April 21 or Saturday, April 22 and winners will be announced on Saturday, April 22 at noon. More information will be posted this afternoon (2/20) at the blog (right-hand column) at HoustonPrairie.org

If you are not an UP (Urban Prairie) Team member, please join our team of volunteers interested in helping at urban pocket prairies and/or to communicate about prairies. See UP Team information and a flyer at this link. Click the buttom below to get monthly emails on Urban Prairies activities that need your help!

UP (Urban Prairie) Team @ UH Shasta Prairie + Photos of 3-3-17; UP Team Also at NatureFest on 3-4-17

The Team at the UH Shasta Prairie

The UP (Urban Prairie) Team‘s first activity was a planting and cleanup day on March 3, 2017 at UH Shasta Prairie (next to the Science and Engineering Classroom Building on Cullen Blvd. Click here for map). Many UH students and Katy Prairie Conservancy (KPC) personnel participated. Prairie plants were partly purchased from Flo Hannah and partly supplied by the Katy Prairie Conservancy nursery and by the Gulf Coast Master Naturalists’ (native) Plant Propagation Program.

The following day, UP Team members Wally Ward, board member of KPC, and Kelly Shield, President of HNPAT (Houston Chapter – Native Prairies Association of Texas), volunteered for the prairie booth at Jesse Jones Park and Nature Center’s NatureFest.

ExxonMobil Team Grant @ Deer Park Prairie Workday 1-28-17

ExxonMobil Team (l-r) Bruce Senior (spouse), Lauren Blanton (retired), Lynne Hoefer (retired), Allen Potvin (retired), Hazel Potvin (spouse)

These five retired ExxonMobil employees and ExxonMobil spouses volunteered at least four hours each at the Lawther – Deer Park Prairie Preserve (DPP) on January 28, 2017 to earned a $500 ExxonMobil Team grant for HNPAT.  Hazel Potvin with HNPAT board’s approval will use the money to purchase much needed tools for DPP workdays.

That day, a total of fourteen volunteers continued removing branches and smaller diameter woody shrubs and tallows that had been cut recently by a professional crew and left on the prairie for us to clear away. The excessive woody plants and rains last year had prevented mowing / haying of the prairie. (See  previous blog for explanation). Also volunteering, in addition to the ExxonMobil team, were our workday leader Glenn Merkord and regular volunteers: Ian and Barbara Kress, major donors to DPP, Chuck Duplant, Charlie Lindquist on the mower, Frank Orht, Kelly Shield, and Lan Shen plus Becky Martinez, of Bayou Land Conservancy, and her two daughters. (Continued below the photos.)

The branches were moved to the NW corner of the property, where they form a nice brush pile for wildlife. As shown in the above photo, Chuck is in the process of turning our gazebo into a greenhouse around the growout table on long-term loan from Katy Prairie Conservancy.

At noon, we had chili and fixings for lunch provided by Hazel Potvin.  Thank you Hazel!

Earlier that day, Damien Carey and his wife Caroline did the monthly bird survey. When asked what less common birds they saw, Damien replied that they saw grasshopper and LeConte sparrows, other unidentified Ammodramuses, and woodcock (near tree motts). These birds are indicators of a healthy ecosystem.

Deer Park Prairie Workday Photos – 2-25-17

Thanks San Jacinto College Students and Student Engagement and Activities Specialists, Jill Johnson and Samantha De La Rosa!

A group of 10 from San Jacinto College, south and Central Campuses, joined 8 HNPAT volunteers on the prairie for the February 25, 2017 workday. The weather was perfect – sunny and mild.

The largest group worked with Glenn to cut the woody plants on the fenceline and then hauled the trimmings with Glenn’s trailer to the NW corner of the property. There a brush pile has been created for wildlife.

A smaller group cut back plants and thatch in the demonstration bed to about 8 inches tall, a task that needs to be done annually in lieu of fire or grazing. They also weeded. (Continued below the photos.)

Chuck and Kelly Shield were converting the gazebo into a greenhouse. Chuck had taken off the opaque composition roof during the last workday. They were now putting on clear plastic corrugated sheets for the roof. For the sides, they were using chicken wire to keep out the squirrels and other animals.

At noon, Hazel provided a wonderful hot dog and beans and potato salad lunch. Thank you Hazel.

Everyone had a great time!

By the way, ExxonMobil approved  Allen Potvin’s submission for a $500 ExxonMobil Team Grant that he, Hazel, Bruce Senior, Lynne Hoefer, and Lauren Blanton earned on the January 28th workday. The Potvins donated the money to HNPAT and Hazel, with the HNPAT board’s approval, used that money to buy needed tools for Deer Park Prairie. Thanks to all of you!

Help HNPAT plan 2016

2016HNPAT border

HNPAT email of 12/16/15 was sent and can be viewed at this link. Most of the information is also on our home page.

We are asking for your help in planning and organizing HNPAT FOR 2016. Please indicate in the doodle poll all times that you will be available to meet and plan. Possible locations are Luby’s at Waugh, Luby’s at S. MacGregor, or Cleburne’s Cafeteria.

Addendum Regarding “Cancelled!” & Gas Leak at the House on Deer Park Prairie.

As previously posted, all activities on Deer Park Prairie has been cancelled until further notice.

IMG_1862crFor those curious, this is what happened: Gas was smelled near the shed in the side/backyard. Glenn Merkord called Centerpoint. The technician who came checked the house for gas and turned off the gas. When he determined there is no gas leak INSIDE the house, he turned the gas to the house back on. The leak was determined to be OUTSIDE in the Centerpoint gas line near the shed. The technician said that Centerpoint had 30 days allowed to fix it. When Glenn asked, if we needed to do anything, the technician said no.

About a week later, another Centerpoint technician again determined that the leak was outside near the shed, but he turned off the gas to the house and said that they will monitor the leak every 10-12 days until they have an opportunity to fix it. This time they recommended for full safety of any employees or volunteers that we need to stay off the property until it is fixed.

Based on the conflicting Centerpoint recommendations, NPAT decided to cancel activities until the gas leak is fixed.

The fact that Centerpoint is not fixing the leak immediately and the fact that the first technician turned the gas to the house back on says to me that Centerpoint’s assessment is there is no eminent danger of explosion, since there are other houses and a school nearby. I also heard that gas leaks outdoors dissipate into the atmosphere and generally do not explode.

I was puzzled; it is so well ingrained in all of us that gas leaks can explode with even the slightest ignition source. I was wondering why Centerpoint can wait up to 30 days to fix the leak.  I looked it up online. In short, apparently, when the leak is outside as this one is, the gas being lighter than air dissipates and generally does not built up to a concentration higher than the lower explosive limit. At a concentration below that limit, natural gas will not burn (or explode) even if an ignition source is present.

Since I learned something, I would like to share the sources of my information. Disclaimer: information in the above paragraph and in the paragraphs below are my interpretations based on what I found online. I know nothing about this field and each reader need to use his/her own judgement as to the validity of my interpretations.

When I googled “natural gas leaks outdoors” online, one article (source: The Spokesman Review, a newspaper) said “This year Spokane Valley Fire Department crews have responded to several broken natural gas lines, whether from some sort of construction work in the road or a homeowner who got careless with a pick ax. Spokane Valley Fire Battalion Chief Stan Cooke gave the same advice as Kolbet. It’s fine to stay in your home if you don’t smell anything [Lan’s note: implied is if you don’t smell anything inside the house], but you should leave if you smell the odor of rotten eggs, he said.

The reason is that once the gas is inside your home, it can’t be ventilated until the leak outside is stopped. It’s rare for explosions to occur with outside leaks, though firefighters recommend that if you are evacuated you do it on foot and not try to start a car.”

Also, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_leak) described different grades of gas leaks. “A Grade 2 leak is a leak that is recognized as being non-hazardous at the time of detection, but justifies scheduled repair based on probable future hazard.”  I do not know what grade leak ours is, but apparently there are non-hazardous leaks. The article talked about 80% LEL or 40% LEL etc. Not knowing what LEL stands for, I looked it up.

LEL is lower explosive limit. “The lowest concentration (percentage) of a gas or a vapor in air capable of producing a flash of fire in presence of an ignition source (arc, flame, heat)…At a concentration in air lower than the LEL, gas mixtures are “too lean” to burn. Methane gas has an LEL of 4.4%. If the atmosphere has less than 4.4% methane, an explosion cannot occur even if a source of ignition is present.
Percentage reading on combustible air monitors should not be confused with the LEL concentrations…A 5% displayed LEL reading for methane, for example, would be equivalent to 5% multiplied by 4.4%, or approximately 0.22% methane by volume at 20 degrees C. Control of the explosion hazard is usually achieved by sufficient natural or mechanical ventilation, to limit the concentration of flammable gases or vapors to a maximum level of 25% of their lower explosive or flammable limit.

So apparently when there is a slow leak of gas outdoors, the gas, being lighter than air, dissipates into the atmosphere and if the concentration of gas is lower than the LEL, the gas will not burn or explode regardless of whether there is an ignition source or not.

Then I had a question of what is the concentration of gas, when I can smell the gas and found this online: (http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/media/8553/chap4-leakdetection-natgas.pdf) “Gas is intentionally odorized so that the average person can perceive it at a concentration well below the explosive range.

Hence, gas leaks outdoors generally do not explode.  All that said, out of an abundance of caution, all activities on property has been cancelled until Centerpoint fixes the gas leak.

I still marvel at the information that can be found in minutes at 1:00 a.m. on the internet! I remember very well that not too long ago researching the above information would require many hours (at least) in the library – when it is open.

Lan Shen

DPP Workday – 9/5/15: NPAT & BLC Volunteers Cleaning the Yard

On a special workday, 9/5/15, thanks to Native Prairies Association of Texas & Bayou Land Conservancy volunteers the yard of the house on the prairie was spruced up.

Mowing 9-5-15Savannah started the day with a push mower. Pauline, our most senior volunteer, after instructions over the phone from Glenn Merkord,  finished on the riding mower. More photos of the workday are at: the Recent Lawther – Deer Park Prairie album of our Flickr account: www.Flickr.com/photos/hnpat