West 11th Street Park
This beautiful 21-acre pocket wilderness is the largest remaining native Texas forest inside the 610 loop that is not permanently protected in a park. With over 1800 mature trees, a rapidly growing and diverse understory, and serene wooded trails, it represents a haven for wildlife and for those of us seeking respite from the stresses of urban living. Naturalists from around Houston have come to the West 11th Street Park to document the diversity of trees and wildlife. Since mowing was stopped 5 years ago, a diverse understory has grown up, providing habitat for over 100 species (at last count!) of resident and migrant birds and over 35 species of butterflies. A recent botanical assessment of the park catalogued 38 species of trees, including 11 species of oak, red maple, persimmon, hickory, sweet gum, mulberry, ash, sycamore, cherry laurel, poplar, and elm. Sixteen species of shrub included 3 species of holly, elderberry, indigo, Turkâ€™s cap, and lantana, among others. We have some poison ivy, of course (although we work very hard to keep it off of our trails), but a wealth of other vines, including passionflower, cat brier, milkweed vine, trumpet creeper, curly clematis, and three species of wild grapes. In season, we have catalogued over 50 species of wild flowers. All six species of woodpeckers normally found in the Houston area are readily seen in the park in the proper season. The beautiful Red-Headed Woodpecker, a declining species in this area, can be seen on almost any visit, as can the dramatic Pileated Woodpeckers. Although the Northern Flicker (a fairly large woodpecker) is rare in the Houston area from April through September, in 2006 it was not only present in the park during these months, but also bred successfully. Great Horned Owls have been in the park on and off since at least 1999. In the spring of 2006 the park had a pair of Great Horned Owls that could be heard every night. They were often seen in flight around sunset. Late in the same spring, the park was host to a pair of Eastern Screech-Owls (two different color phases) that perched in a young deciduous tree near the northeast entrance. Even the Barn Owl has been recorded; it was seen on the west side of the park.The West 11th Street Park is a dedicated Monarch Waystation, with Monarch caterpillar food plants kept growing year-around. The most common species seen in the park is the spectacular Spicebush Swallowtail, although we are at a loss to identify much in the way of food sources for these beautiful creatures.