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CDRI Desert NewsFlash

April 2022
The above photo of the claret cup cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus) in the Botanical Gardens is from 2021. We expect this same cactus to have its showy flowers on display in the coming week! 
The Central Texas Trail Tamers and CDRI Volunteers Create a Magnificent New Trail
On Sunday, March 6, we welcomed nine members of the Central Texas Trail Tamers (the "Trail Tamers"), along with ten CDRI volunteers to a BBQ dinner to kick off the coming week's activities to create a new trail that would lead to the Modesta Canyon Trail.
The idea sprang to life last fall when the Trail Tamers accepted a request from CDRI to repair some paths in the Botanical Gardens that had suffered damage during last summer's monsoons. When discussing a similar issue of recurring flood damage to the Modesta Canyon trailhead, Trail Tamers President, Scott Newsom, envisioned how to fix that problem. We would erase the existing "straight-fall" hiking trail and build a new wide-sweeping trail across the grassy expanse. The new trail would ultimately link with the more rugged trail that takes hikers to Modesta Canyon. 
We've learned to never turn down an offer of help or scoff at an idea as being too big. Instead, we leaned in and said, "Let's do it!"  
For some background on the Trail Tamers, they don't accept payment for their work. Instead, they volunteer their trail services to sites that are open to the public. They do back-wrenching work, moving boulders and cutting into the rock and dry, baked soil like you might slice into a fresh batch of brownies just removed from the oven. They've got the skill, and they make difficult work look easy. 
Usually, the Trail Tamers camp out, but this was the first week of March, and we local folk know how brutal the weather can get. So we enticed nine of the best of the Trail Tamers to come out and work on this project with the lure of staying at the cabins at the Mountain Trail Lodge, and we would also provide three square meals each day for the week that they had set aside to complete the project.
Thirteen CDRI volunteers also came out to the site to work alongside the experts, and in return, they learned how to build a trail.
The Trail Tamers and CDRI volunteers worked so hard and so quickly that they were finished with the trail by the second day.  As they surveyed their work, they asked, "What's next?" 
What's next was tackling the trailhead that leads to Clayton's Overlook. This amazing crew finished that trail in a day! So, the next day we walked through the Botanical Gardens and found plenty for them to do. They replaced some non-native rocks in planter areas that had mysteriously found their way into the gardens with beautiful native stone. They then created the outline for a new, large planter bed in the Pollinator Garden designed to alleviate flood damage incurred each year by the monsoons.
Clearing the new trail that leads to Clayton's Overlook. 
The Central Texas Trail Tamers and CDRI volunteers, on Monday, at the start of the weeklong project.
We are grateful to all of the Trail Tamers and the CDRI volunteers. With their hard work, our team learned new skills, while we all forged new friendships, but the real jewel is the resulting trail that will endure for generations to come. The men and women who were a part of this project have every right to be proud of their efforts. Thank you to each, and congratulations on creating a meaningful and beautiful trail. 

Thank you to these dedicated members of the Central Texas Trail Tamers who gave a week of their lives to build trails at CDRI:
Scott Newsom
James Wieland
Charles Grant
Mike Rogers
Robert Gross
Stephanie Shindler
Mona Eckelman
David Wade
James Smith

And thank you to the following CDRI volunteers who also gave a week out of their lives to build new trails:
Greg Brock
Gail Casarez
Stephen Cook

And thank you to these great CDRI volunteers who gave two or more days out of their busy schedules to build new trails: 
Pam Westlake
Warren Shaul
Michael Funke
Nancy Roll
Glen Eisen
Martin Havran
John Duvall 
Loyette Stephens
Steve Pettigrew
Scott Newsom maneuvers a large rock into place in the Pollinator Garden.
Who are the Trail Tamers?

The Central Texas Trail Tamers is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization comprised of volunteers from various professional backgrounds. They have in common their desire to create and restore trails in public spaces that will be used and appreciated for decades to come.
The volunteers come from different and diverse backgrounds and professions, leading to interesting conversations around the dinner table. While most have retired from their previous career, none appear to be retiring to a Lazy-Boy recliner anytime soon.  Instead, they are making nature accessible and enjoyable for many people while also working to ensure that the trails are safe to hike.   
The next time you are hiking, notice the boulder or several boulders that line a trail, study how a path follows the contours of a hill, or admire the rocks embedded in the ground resembling a stairstep but appearing as if they somehow occurred naturally. You'll begin to recognize and appreciate the work of trail builders and the work of the Central Texas Trail Tamers.
You are invited to learn more about the Central Texas Trail Tamers by visiting the following website:   https://texastrailtamers.wildapricot.org/.
Make Plans
to Join Us for
the Roger Conant
Distinguished Guest
Lecturer Program
Thursday, April 14

We're excited to welcome author, biologist, and naturalist James Cornett to the Crowley Theater on Thursday, April 14.  Cornett will present “Can’t Live Without You: Hummingbirds and Ocotillos.”
James Cornett, who lives in Palm Springs, California, has traveled extensively throughout the North American deserts, including the Chihuahuan Desert. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology. During his career, Cornett has performed biological studies for California deserts since 1973 and served the Palm Springs Desert Museum from 1975-to 2004 as an instructor, curator, and Director. His 2011 book, The Chihuahuan Desert, is CDRI's best-selling book. Among his many books sold in the CDRI Gift Shop are The Greater Roadrunner, The Splendid Ocotillo, Indian Uses of Desert Plants, Wildlife of the North American Deserts, and The Chihuahuan Desert.
CDRI holds the Conant Distinguished Guest Lecturer Program twice annually, in April and October. The lecture program offers an array of exciting topics relating to nature.
Please join CDRI and friends at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas, Thursday, April 14, at 7:00 p.m. for an informative and engaging evening. Guests are invited to stay after the program for a reception and an opportunity to visit with Cornett. Admission is free. 
We will have the books listed above for sale before and after the program.
For information, please contact programs@cdri.org or call 432-364-2499.

The above photograph is by Alan Wintz.
We're Open on Sundays! 
With warmer weather, folks want more time to be outdoors. What better way to enjoy the trails and the Botanical Gardens than spending Sunday afternoons at CDRI?  Sunday hours are 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. 
We're looking forward to seeing you soon!
Garden Notes
If you give a Kangaroo Rat a Button Cactus…
by Faith Hille

This month I’ll give you a little laugh while learning about Epithelantha micromeris, aka the button cactus or Ping-Pong ball cactus. It is a small globular cactus that grows unbranched or in clusters, with small dense ashy grey spines. E. micromeris grows in desert grasslands and woodlands at 500 to 1800 meters in elevation. It grows best in crevices in calcareous sedimentary rock.

I checked the cactus museum, as I do every morning, checking each table making sure there was nothing out of place. Much to my horror, something had nibbled a sizable chunk out of two of the E. micromeris. I immediately started to rat-proof the museum, filling holes with steel wool and sealing it with flex seal, nailing boards down that were loose, and re-baiting the mice and rat traps. While distracted and busying myself, I didn’t give the museum a good look for the culprit, knowing that it was most likely a nocturnal kangaroo rat. A young woman squeals and points to a “mouse.” I looked under the table. It was an adorable sleepy Merriam’s kangaroo rat (Dipodomys merriami). I picked it up and took it outside, placing it in a small burrow, so it was sheltered from the wind and cold. I was confused as to why it was so easy to catch. I thought about it for a few minutes and did a little research; the poor little guy was high as a kite. E. micromeris is one of the many psychoactive cacti. 

The most well-known psychoactive cactus is the Lophophora williamsii, aka the peyote cactus, containing an alkaloid called mescaline. Alkaloids are a defense for the plant when eaten in large amounts. However, if consumed in small doses, it can be a stimulant. Native Americans would utilize many different types of cactus as stimulants for religious ceremonies, E. micromeris being one of them. It doesn’t have mescaline; instead, it has other alkaloids such as methyltyramine hordenine, methylepithelanthate, and dimethoxyphenethylamine. Methyltyramine hordenine and methylepithelanthate make one more active and awake with increased dopamine but can also result in a racing heartbeat. Dimethoxyphenethylamine is the compound that is responsible for hallucinations and is a schedule I drug according to the FDA. [Thord-Gray 1955] purported to be the Tarahumara’s E. micromeris: “…credited with great intellectual and moral qualities. A small dose of this plant will open the busi-ra (eyes). One can then clearly see the evil wizards and witches. It will prolong life and increase the speed of a runner in a race.” I am not promoting this plant to be used medicinally, merely stating its uses in other cultures.
 With the amount eaten by the rat, its heart was beating uncontrollably and was visibly disoriented. Hopefully, the poor thing learned its lesson would not be returning for more nibbles. So far, no traces of rat activity have been detected. Our collection is safe for now… 
Visiting Groups and Activities in March

Ambleside School of Fredericksburg

Austin Youth River Watch

The Cactus & Succulent Sale 

CDRI's annual Cactus and Succulent Sale was a huge success. Shoppers were excited to return to CDRI's cactus sale after sitting out a two-year gap with no sales during Covid. Ninety percent of the plants were sold by Noon!
Thank you to the CDRI Team and volunteers who helped shoppers find their special cactus and ensured that the sales flowed smoothly.  Volunteers included Pam Westlake, Karen Struthers, Anne Adams, Jim Martinez, Jim Fissel, Warren and Anita Shaul, Todd and Karla Engle, and Nancy Foxworthy.
We are often asked about the opening morning crowd size. The above photos are of both directions from the front gate on opening day.
                        Volunteers and the CDRI Team before the opening of the 2022 Cactus & Succulent Sale.
Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! Day
Third-grade students from area schools (Fort Davis, Marfa, Valentine, and Alpine) attended Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! Day on March 31. The program was CDRI's first educational program since Covid brought events to a sudden halt two years ago. The program was met with incredibly well-behaved, happy, and engaged children. Teachers commented about how their children were ready for a fun experience beyond their school. We're looking forward to more programs this month.
The program was fun! It was a huge success thanks to the following CDRI friends who made up the fabulous team and demonstrated how teamwork works. Thank you to CDRI volunteers Allen and Peggy Gilchrist, Pam Cook, Roy Saffel, Anne Adams, Warren Shaul, and Cynthia McAlister. And, thank you to Dr. Chris Ritzi, Professor at SRSU, and members of the Biology Club, Madison Walker, Sofia Gutierrez Gladwish, Stephen Falick, Derek Dacus, and Isabel Sandberg. And a special thank you to the CDRI Team, Faith Hille, Rachel Carvajal, and host campers Todd and Karla Engle. Lisa was there, too -- as bug chef and photographer. 
Please Join Us
The Roger Conant
Distinguished Guest Lecturer Program
And help us welcome returning guest lecturer
James Cornett 
“Can’t Live Without You: Hummingbirds and Ocotillos”

The Crowley Theater, Marfa, Texas
April 14, 2022    7:00 p.m.    Free admission
Light hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served after the program.

"the best
nature center
in Texas,"
until next time,
We wish you
happy trails!
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734


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