Endangered Blackland Prairie at White Rock Lake Park

White Rock Lake Park is the home to one of the few remnants of the Blackland Prairie.
North Texas was once an uninterrupted sea of waist-high grasses. This sea of grass called the Blackland Prairie covered nearly 12 million acres. Texas Parks and Wildlife estimate that only 5000 acres still remain. 250 acres of this rare ecosystem are in White Rock Lake Park.

How Did the Blackland Prairie Survive?

As Europeans colonized North Texas, they moved into the fertile pairie with the dark fertile soil. First they replaced prairie grasses with fields of crops and planted trees. Then, in an effort to protect their homes and farms, they began to douse naturally occuring prairie fires. Fires that in the past had kept trees from establishing themselves in the prairie. Once settlers started putting out these fires trees began to flourish in the Blacklands.

Finally, indiscrimante hunters almost drove the bison and antelope who grazed on the prairie to extinction. As a result, the beneficial impact of their grazing on on this fragile eco-system was gone.

These farmer settlers did offer one unexpected protection to the prairie: cattle. Grazing cattle loved the prairie grasses as much as the bison once did. This is exactly what saved the prairie at White Rock Lake Park. Before it was a park, it was a dairy farm.

Flora of The Blackland Pairie

The rich dark clay soils that give the Blackland Prairie its name are some of the most fertile in the world. You can find them just west of the Post Oak Savannah in Ecoregion 3. Pecan, cedar elm, oaks and hackberry trees dot the landscape. You can also find some mesquite invading the southern reaches. The dominant grass here is little bluestem, but you can also find big bluestem, Indiangrass, eastern gammagrass, switchgrass and side oats grama.

Trees of the Blackland Prairies

Trees at White Rock Lake Park

  • Pecan
  • Black Walnut
  • Sycamore
  • Eastern Cottonwood
  • Burr Oak
  • Shumard Red Oak
  • American Elm
  • Cedar Elm
  • Common Persimmon
  • Deciduous Holly
  • Red Mulberry
  • Carolina Buckthorn
  • Huisache
  • Red Buckeye
  • Eastern Redbud
  • Mexican Plum
  • American Elderberry
  • Eastern Red Cedar

Shrubs of the Blackland Prairie

Native bushes of the Blackland Prairie

  • American Beauty-berry
  • Buttonbush
  • Fragrant Sumac
  • Autumn Sage

Succulents of the Blackland Prairie

Yucca plant at White Rock Lake Park

  • Pale-leaf Yucca
  • Vines
  • Cross-vine
  • Trumpet Creeper
  • Coral Honeysuckle
  • Virginia Creeper
  • May Pop
  • Prairie Rose

Grasses of the Blackland Prairie

native grasses and Say's Phoebe bird in Texas Blackland Prairie
Say’s Phoebe on a dry stem
  • Big Bluestem
  • Sideoats grama
  • Canada Wildrye
  • Big Muhly
  • Indiangrass
  • Little Bluestem

Wildflowers of the Blackland Prairie

Purple coneflowers of the blackland prairie
Wild Lavender coneflowers bathed in morning sun
  • Columbine
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Coralbean
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Turk’s Cap
  • Scarlet Sage
  • Indian Paintbrush
  • Texas Bluebonnet
  • Brown-eyed Susan