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      The Nature Report: Spring Colors

      Splashes of color adorn the arid South Texas ranch land this spring, from sandy soiled chaparral to towering oaks. Early spring brings a spurt of color to long dormant bromeliads that festoon gnarled oak branches.

      Tislandia Baillie are native to the vast oak forests stretching thru the ranch country from Kingsville to Raymondville. During summer, fall and winter they are barely noticeable gray clumps of foliage that appear almost lifeless.

      But each spring for a few weeks colorful blooms emerge from dusky husks clinging to tall branches. From pinkish bloom spikes protrude bright purple stamens topped with a golden flower of pollen.

      These plants are epiphytes or air plans and they anchor onto the oak bark but are not parasitic.

      They glean their nutrition from the air and efficiently utilize any moisture. Below the tall oaks and out in the sparse brush country a blooming cactus brightens the sandy soil.

      Old ranch hands call this cactus horse crippler because of the squat plants formidable thorns. Delicate pinkish flowers quiver in the wind like the feathers of some exotic bird.

      Later, the thorny cactus will fruit providing tasty treats for golden fronted woodpeckers and other denizens of the chaparral. As the bromeliads and horse crippler blooms fade, prolific prickly pear blooms burst across the ranch land.

      Their color brightens the arid landscape and promises a bumper crop of summer tunas for a variety of hungry birds and other creatures.