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      Nature Report: Recent Rains Revive Ranch Country

      What a difference rain makes. While the ranch country of deep South Texas might not be officially out of drought status, it has sure greened up throughout the wild lands thanks to the recent rains. From the brush country of Starr County where the rich pink blooms of the cenizo or purple sage brighten up the landscape to the coastal prairie where lush grasses sway in the breeze, things are sure looking up in the outdoors. This is what a ranch country pond just north of Raymondville looked like a few months ago compared to the lush oasis it is now. The contrast is so stark that it is hard to believe it is actually the same pond. We are barely into the first week of fall and it looks like spring in the Rio Grande Valley.

      The normally arid brush country of the western Valley is flush with cactus blooms like this rare dumpling cactus that occurs only in Starr County.

      The increasingly scarce squat gray peyote cactus is in full bloom as well. The tasajillo or Christmas cactus as it is known by some sports a bumper crop of berries, which will be a vital source of sustenance for birds and other denizens of the chaparral in the weeks ahead. Native grasses like windmill grass and bristle grass are also seeding and these are a favorite food of quail. Scattered morning lilies are popping up and palm leaf mallow and other forbs will provide valuable food for whitetail deer and turkeys.