Texas Almanac, 1992-1993 Page: 68
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68 TEXAS ALMANAC 1992-1993
(Editor's note: This article was updated for this edition of The Texas Almanac by Stephan L. Hatch, Curator, S.M.
Tracy Herbarium and Professor, Dept. of Rangeland Ecology and Management, Texas A&M University.)
Difference in amount and frequency of rainfall, in
soils and in frost-free days gives Texas a great variety of
vegetation. From the forests of East Texas to the deserts
of West Texas, from the grassy plains of North Texas to
the semi-arid brushlands of South Texas, plant species
The following discussion of Texas' 10 vegetational
areas (see map) and rangeland resources was prepared
for the Texas Almanac by authorities at Texas A&M Uni-
Sideoats grama, which occurs on more different soils
in Texas than any other native grass, was officially des-
ignated as the state grass of Texas by the Texas Legis-
lature in 1971.
The 10 principal plant life areas of Texas, starting in
the east, are:
1. Piney Woods. Most of this area of some 16 million
acres ranges from about 50 to 700 feet above sea level
and receives 40 to 56 inches of rain yearly. Many rivers,
creeks and bayous drain the region. Nearly all of Texas'
commercial timber comes from this area. Pine is the
principal timber. There are three native species - the
longleaf, shortleaf and loblolly pine. An introduced spe-
cies, the slash pine, also is widely grown. Hardwoods in-
clude a variety of oaks, elm, hickory, magnolia, sweet
and black gum, tupelo and others.
The area is interspersed with native and improved
grasslands. Cattle are the primary grazing animals.
Deer and quail are abundant in properly managed local-
ities. Primary forage plants, under proper grazing man-
agement, include species of the bluestems, rossettegrass,
panicums, paspalums, blackseed needlegrass, Canada and
Virginia wildryes, purpletop, broadleaf and spike wood-
oats, switchcane, lovegrasses, indiangrass and legume
Highly disturbed areas have understory and oversto-
ry of undesirable woody plants that suppress growth of
pine and desirable grasses. The primary forage grasses
have been reduced and the grasslands invaded by
threeawns, annual grasses, weeds, broomsedge blue-
stem, red lovegrass and shrubby woody species.
2. Gulf Prairies and Marshes. The Gulf Prairies and
Marshes cover approximately 10 million acres. There
are two subunits: (a) The marsh and salt grasses immedi-
ately at tidewater, and (b) a little farther inland, a strip
of bluestems and tall grasses, with some gramas in the
western part. These grasses, except salt and marsh
grasses, make excellent grazing. Oaks, elm and other
hardwoods grow to some extent, especially along
streams, and the area has some post oak and brushy ex-
tensions along its borders. Much of the Gulf Prairies is
fertile farmland. The area is well suited for cattle.
Principal grasses of the Gulf Prairies are tall bunch-
grasses, including big bluestem, little bluestem, seacoast
bluestem, indiangrass, eastern gamagrass, Texas winter-
grass, switchgrass and gulf cordgrass. Seashore
saltgrass occurs on moist saline sites. Heavy grazing has
changed the range vegetation in many cases so that the
predominant grasses are the less desirable broomsedge
bluestem, smutgrass, threeawns, tumblegrass and many
other inferior grasses. The other plants that have
invaded the productive grasslands include oak under-
brush, Macartney rose, huisache, mesquite, prickly pear,
ragweed, bitter sneezeweed, broomweed and others.
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Kingston, Mike. Texas Almanac, 1992-1993, book, 1991; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth279642/m1/72/?rotate=270: accessed December 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.