Oct. 4, 2020
Then Boy Scout Austen Furse, working with a group of fellow scouts, planted 200 buckets of eastern gamagrass on the upper bank of Buffalo Bayou in Memorial Park at Woodway to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. That was in March of 2018, and Furse, now an Eagle Scout, is applying for a Hornaday award for “distinguished service in natural resources conservation.”
Eastern gamagrass, a distant relative of corn, is a deep-rooted native plant valued for its stabilizing properties on the banks of streams, as well as for forage in fields. Stabilizers are one of two basic categories of riparian plants that naturally work in succession to fix a sandy bank. There are colonizer plants that spread out near the water’s edge, sending out shallow roots. They prepare the way for the stabilizers with stronger, deeper roots. Stabilizers, which can be grassy or woody, help dissipate the erosive flow of the water and collect sediment to incorporate into the bank and hold it together.
We visited recently with Furse at the Woodway site, a popular boat launch for paddling on the bayou. Like the gamagrass, Furse, a member of Troop 55 of the Sam Houston Area Council, has grown in the last two years. Now a high-school senior, Furse says he is interested in a potential career in biology. Excellent! We need more scientists.
But it wasn’t just the gamagrass that had flourished. The area was a stunning garden, jammed with useful grasses, forbs, woody plants, vines and trees planted by nature, including the flowing bayou itself, most though not all of them native, many of them edible and medicinal.
Here is a partial list of the plants and trees we noted besides gamagrass:
Ragweed, giant ragweed, or horseweed
Trailing wild bean
Wild grape vine
Morning glory (tievine)
Johnson grass (invasive)
Prairie tea (croton)