The Arboretum Trail is the latest addition to the Nature Center. It consists of a new trail in the north area and starts at the parking lot at the east edge of the stone wall. An initial 9 trees and shrubs listed below are marked along the trail for your convenience in the order shown here.


In addition to the Arboretum there are numberous plants in the North Area that have been labelled. There is the Benny Simpson Island Garden at the main entrance as well as a number of interesting plants in the south side gardens. Finally, there are two interesting trees in the fence garden with more tress and shrubs to come!

Arboretum Map

(Trail shown in Green)

Arboretum Trail

Netleaf Hackberry – Celtis reticulata

This is a very common tree in many parts of the Nature Center and can grow to a height of up to 70′. Hackberries can be easily recognized by the many prominent knobs that cover the trunks of these trees. The Netleaf variety is also easily recognizable by the fact that the veins, as seen on the underside of a leaf, travel from one major vein all the way across the leaf until it intersects a second major vein. They typically like to grow in moist soils near water although they are a very drought friendly tree. They can also survive strong winds. In the spring there will be small green flowers that can be up to 1/2 inch across and the berries are edible. This is a very bird and butterfly friendly tree! Netleaf Hackberry trunk - Celtis laevigata var. reticulata

Honey MesquiteProsopis glandulosa

Honey Mesquite Tree
This is a tree that you will either love or hate. It has long, woody spines that can be very dangerous to anyone that brushes it. It is also very difficult to kill as there are nodes below ground that can become limbs if the top part of the plant is killed. The beans are edible by humans and other animals and they can be spread by cows eating them. Native Americans used the beans to make flower and bread. The wood is dense and is sought after for smoking meats when grilling. It is good for the plants growing under it as the feathery leaves allow a lot of sunlight through. This is also good for the many different kinds of harmless lichens that love to grow on its branches and trunks.

Ashe JuniperJuniperus ashei

This is perhaps the most common native tree in the Nature Center. Is is often called a Mountain Cedar but it is not a Cedar! It has bark that comes off in long strips that are used by the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler in nest building and provides wildlife with shade year round. It is also a plant commonly used by the local Beavers as can be seen by Beaver cut plants along the Beaver Ponds. Ashe Juniper - Juniperus ashei tree

Texas Red BudCercis canadensis var. texensis

Red Bud Flowers
Red Bud trees are amongst the most showy trees in the Nature Center. Each spring they develop beautiful magenta flowers. They grow very slowly reaching a height of about 16 feet in 10 years! The flowers and roasted seeds are edible and were often eaten by Native Americans. The leaves provide food for Butterfly and Moth caterpillars. It has wonderful heart shaped leaves that can be recognized anywhere. Birds such as Chickadees, Goldfinches, Nuthatches and Woodpeckers are attracted to these trees.

Mexican BuckeyeUngnadia speciosa

This is a wonderful small tree that has beautiful pink blossoms in the spring and a wonderful fragrance. Birds, bees and many species butterflies all love its nectar. Birds eat the seeds even though they are poisonous to humans. Other birds love this tree because it is a source of insects as food! They prefer part shade but can also grow in direct sunlight if they get enough water. The seed pods are also very showy with their triangular shape and last through the winter. They are popular in making jewelry and fortunately safe to wear.
Mexican Buckeye Flowers

Gum BumeliaSideroxylon lanuginosum oblongifolium

Gum Bumelia Flowers
This plant can be a shrub or a tree and has beautiful white flowers. Its leaves are thick and shiny often with a dimple on the end and you can easily distinguish this plant from the similar-looking Mountain Laurel or Live Oak by the thick wooden thorns that are often found at the tips of the branches. It can form thickets because its sends out roots that can sprout into new plants.

Plateau (Texas) Live OakQuercus fusiformis

This is perhaps the most majestic and beautiful tree in the Nature Center. It can live up to 200 years and will often grow a sprawling canopy up to 50 feet tall and at least as wide. It is one of the hardiest trees in Texas in terms of resistance to drought and storm damage. The leaves are very interesting in that they stay green on the tree throughout the winter and then fall in the spring when they are replaced with new growth. This tree can also grow by sending out roots and has been known to form islands of many trees with interconnected roots. This can be seen near the ramp farther along this trail near the metal ramp. Texas Live Oak Tree

Shin OakQuercus sinuata var. breviloba

Shin Oak leaf - Quercus sinuata var. breviloba This oak is easily recognizable by its light gray shaggy bark on older trees. In the North Area you will see a good number of these trees growing up to 40 feet tall. It can also grow as a shrub or as a multi-trunked tree although in this area it is usually found as a tall single-trunked tree. As it can grow on hard limestone it is ideal for growing in this area.

Texas White AshFraxinus albicans

This is one of the most common trees found in the upland areas of the Nature Center. It has beautiful round to oblong green leaves. It is difficult to distinguish from the Green Ash but no Green Ashes have been found in the park so far. As you walk along the paths you will see hundreds of saplings but very few grow into full sized trees because the thin soil is not ideal for the growth of this tree. It can also be found near the Leon River where the bottomland soils are more suited to this tree. It forms a beautiful shade tree if given the room to grow. Texas White Ash fruits

Texas Prickly PearOpuntia engelmanni var. linheimeri

Texas Prickly Pear - Opuntia engelmannii var. lindheimeri This distinctive prickly pear is very common in Texas. It can be recognized by its large and beautiful yellow flowers with yellow centers or by its upright form. Given time its pads also grow much larger than the Common Prickly Pear. It grows in tall clusters and is very beautiful. The pads and fruit, when stripped of thorns are edible. Indians considered the fruit very tasty and would burn the spines off before eating.[No sign yet]

Common Prickly PearOpuntia macrorhiza

This is another common Cactus found in Texas. It can be distinguished from the Texas Prickly Pear by its beautiful yellow flowers with red centers. It typically grows low to the ground with a few pads sticking up above the rest. The pads and fruit are both edible like those of the Texas Prickly Pear. Like most cacti it can withstand extreme drought with the pads shrinking to almost nothing. When it rains it will absorb huge amounts of water storing it in the pads and roots.[No sign yet] Common Prickly Pear - Opuntia macrorhiza

Texas Elbow-bush – Forestiera pubescens

Elbowbush - Foriestera pubescens This shrub is one of the most common plants in the uplands of the nature center. It has two very interesting features. First, it has some of the first flowers that one can find in the spring. For this reason it is often called a bee-suck plant as it attracts the first bees of the season. Second, its limbs project outward from the stems at an angle that resembles that of an elbow and thus giving rise to its name. Because of its very angular nature it can be very difficult to walk through as it grabs onto you and adjacent shrubs! It also has some of the first green leaves of the spring.[Awaiting signage]

Yaupon HollyIlex vomitoria

This evergreen shrub is one of the few native plants in North America that contains caffeine. The bright red berries are toxic to humans and should be avoided. The leaves have been used in making tea for hundreds of years. Native Americans sometimes smoked the leaves during rituals. The berries are extremely popular with many species of birds and the pits survive to produce more plants. [Awaiting signage] Evergreen Holly shrub - Ilex vomitoria

Flameleaf SumacRhus lanceolata

Flameleaf Sumac - Rhus lanceolata This native deciduous tree is known for its incredible orange or red foliage seen in the fall. It pale yellow to white flowers appear in August and are a wonderful attractor for bees and many other insects. It produces beautiful red berries that are carried off by racoons and birds and can be used to make a tart sumac tea. It is also an incredible heat and drought survivor and can take the worst that Texas can offer.

AgaritaBerberis trifoliolata

This plant has something for everyone! It has holly-like green leaves year round, fragrant yellow flowers in early spring and the large numbers of bright red berries are edible. It forms a dense round bush and its leaves have sharp needle points. Thus it is perfect for animals providing protection and food and nectar for insects.[Awaiting signage] Agarita Bush - Berberis trifoliolata

Roosevelt WeedBaccharis neglecta

Roosevelt Weed, False Willow - Baccharis neglecta This is one of the most common shrubs found in the lowlands near the stone bridge and scattered around the nature center. It can grow 20 feet tall and be quite bushy. It is distinctive in that, unlike most other plants, it blooms in the fall with thousands of tiny white showy flowers. It can be rather invasive in places and is difficult to kill.[Awaiting signage]

Twistleaf YuccaYucca rupicola

This is the perfect plant for dry and rocky climates in full sun or part shade areas. It has evergreen olive-green leaves tipped with a strong and sharp thorn. The leaf edges are covered with tiny sharp teeth. It is easily recognized because the leaves twist as they get longer. Its leaves never get taller than about 2 feet tall. It blooms in spring by putting out a stalk up to 5 feet long and will be convered with many large white flowers. The buds and flowers are a favorite food for deer.[No signage] Twistleaf Yucca basal foliage - Yucca rupicola

Pale YuccaYucca pallida

Pale Yucca plant - Yucca pallida This Yucca is quite common in Bell County and southward. It differs from Y. rupicola in that its mature leaves are straight as opposed to twisted and nearly flat as opposed to U shaped. The leaf color is much bluer as well. One has to be careful in IDing these 2 Yuccas as they can hybridize.
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Fence Gardens

PecanCarya illinoinensis

This beautiful tree is native to this part of the country and can be found eastward to Louisiana and to the north. It has small sweet nuts that many people prefer. It makes a great shade tree during the hot summer months and provides nuts in the spring. The husks are initially green and eventually turn brown, splitting open to release the thin-shelled nut contained within. This fruit structure is typical of trees in the Hickory family. Trees large and small are found happily growing in many parts of the nature center. Click on the photo to see an example of a single leaf made up of many asymmetric leaflets.
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Pecan Tree - Carya illinoinensis

Western SoapberrySapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Soapberry tree - Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii This native perennial tree is fast growing and provides good shade. From a distance it is often confused with chinaberry trees but is easy to distinguish by using three characteristics. First, the bark is very irregular as shown here. Next, click on the photo and you will see that the berries are very waxy looking and finally, the leaves are serrated. The most important difference is, however, the fact that the leaves, bark and berries are not poisonous to wildlife!
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Benny Simpson
Island Garden

Possumhaw HollyIlex decidua

This beautiful shrub or tree is known for it bright shiny red berries seen throughout the winter. The berries are especially important as winter food for songbirds, game birds and many other animals. They are bitter so it is not recommended for people. Deer browse on the twigs. In the warm months it is covered with toothed dark-green leaves on smooth light-gray branches. This is the native Texas Holly! Texas Holly - Ilex decidua

Texas KidneywoodEysenhardtia texana

Texas Kidneywood shrub - Eisenhardtia texana This native shrub has beautiful and fragrant white flowers that can last from April through October if there is sufficient rain. Because of its fragrance and nectar it is especially attractive to butterflies and bees! It has leaves with dozens of tiny delicate leaflets, a very open structure and can grow to ten feet in height. In the past it was used to treat kidney and bladder problems and hence the source of its name.

Turk’s Cap Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

This plant is a must for any garden if you like hummingbirds! The gorgeous red flowers are very popular with the Ruby-throated hummingbirds found in this area with 3 species of butterflies and can be enjoyed summer through fall. It grows in beautiful clusters with giant green leaves and can grow up to 9 feet tall. It often has marble sized fruit that is eaten by the local animals and is safe for us to eat. When you see the fruits please leave them for the local wildlife! It is very adaptable and can survive full sun, part sun and full shade. Turk's Cap flower - Malvaviscus arboreus var drummondii

White HoneysuckleLonicera albiflora

Texas Honeysuckle flower - Lonicera albiflora Texas Honeysuckle is the friendly version of the family of Honeysuckle vines. It grows slowly and has beautiful white flowers nestled between two fused leaves on the tips of the vines. It puts out red berries that are eaten very quickly by the local wildlife and so is very animal friendly. The flowers and berries attract many birds, bees, butterflies and animals. It grows best in sandy or rockly limestone soils.

Chinkapin OakQuercus muhlenbergii

This gorgeous native oak is an excellent choice of oaks for many reasons. It has beautiful large green leaves for excellent summer shade and produces edible acorns that are eaten by many animals and people if properly prepared. It serves a a host for butterfly larvae (Gray Hairstreak) and provides excellent cover for birds. It is also attractive to hummingbirds! The wood was desired by early settlers for its use in making strong and straight planks and railroad ties. (no sign yet) Chinkapin Oak - Quercus muehlenbergii

Aromatic SumacRhus aromatica

Aromatic Sumac - Rhus aromatica foliage catkins This plant grows all over the eastern half of the US and Canada. It is well suited to be used in the most inhospitable environments such as deep shade or poor soils. Its berries provide food for animals in the wintertime although it is not a first coice food. As a result it is often the only remaining food sources at the end of winter and so provides a late food source. It is a slow grower and so will not overrun your gardens.
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South Gardens

BeautyberryCallicarpa americana

This is one of the more interesting plants in the south area. The native variety has clusters of sweet magenta berries that many birds and animals like. People generally do not like them because they are too astringent. The thick foliage provides good cover for wildlife. The leaves can be crushed and used as an insect repellant and the roots can be made into a tea. There is also a cultivar that produces white berries in the same area.

CoralberrySymphoricarpos orbiculatus

Coralberry - Symphoricarpos orbiculatus This native shrub is one of the most adaptable plants around surviving droughts, can live in full shade or part sun and grows in many soil types. It produces small green flowers and bright red fruit. The fruits are eaten by many species of insects and birds although being slightly toxic serve as a food only when the wildlife is desperate. As a result the berries often last throughout the winter. In addition to this the thick foliage provides good animal cover and beautiful red leaves in fall and winter.

Rose MallowPavonia lasiopetala

This is one of the most beautiful rose-pink flowers in the gardens blooming in summer and fall. It is both cold and drought hardy, can grow in limestone soils, survive in full sun or half shade and so is one of the more sought after native plants in Texas. It is interesting in that it grows well for 5 or 6 years and then is replaced by new plants coming up from seed.
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Rose Mallow - Pavonia lasiopetala

GoldeneyeViguiera dentata

Goldeneye - Viguiera-dentata This beautiful plant is probably the most widespread flowering plant found in the North Area. It grows to six feet tall in the deep shade and the flowers have wonderful golden centers giving it its common name. It forms large clusters with hundreds of flowers and is the dominant flower blooming in the fall. It is sufficiently robust that it can completely close in trails in the North Area! The seeds attract many birds, it plays host to the larvae of 2 butterfly species and the nectar is popular with honeybees. (No sign yet)