Forest Park is stretched along the south bank of the Trinity River (map of park6), and because periodic flooding has been common to the whole area, the woody plants of Forest Park are very similar to those in the nearby Overton Park and Trinity Park. Bur oaks, hackberries, cedar elms, bumelias, green ash, pecans, and American elms are common and distinctive trees. Forest Park and the Fort Worth Zoo are essentially a single park, but the Zoo area is not covered here. At its western end, the park is across the street the golf course of the Colonial Country Club and essentially continuous with it.
It’s interesting to see the old channel of the Trinity River, before it was channelized, loop into and out of the park like a naturally occurring oxbow. The inlet near the Miniature Train Depot is crossed by a concrete bridge; the other inlet further down the river is crossed by the Miniature RR Bridge. A number of species in Forest Park are found only along the banks of the oxbow. (Forest Park photos)
This is the beautiful wooded area (with picnic tables scattered through) in front of the Log Cabin Village (LCV map), bounded on the west and north by Colonial Parkway (Rogers Ave.) and on the east by University Drive. About 90% of the trees are cedar elms -- with scattered large pecans, bur oaks, American elms, and bumelias. Near the road is a cluster of hackberries (look at the great variation in the appearance of the trunks -- some are densely warty, others much less so), and near the northwestern corner is a cluster of green ashes. An usually tall and straight-trunked red mulberry grows near the northwestern corner, as well as a nearby white mulberry. A few redbuds and chinkapin oaks have been planted in a small opening, and at least one bur oak has been planted.
A honey locust is easily the most unusual tree to be seen here. Look along the road facing the golf course, near the turn to Log Cabin Village –– the branches slightly overhang the road, and the tree is easy to see from a car if you drive along slowly. The compound leaves with small leaflets are distinctive, but the trunk is crowded with clusters of long, thick, stiff thorns (the branches also are thorny). Honey locust trees are common inhabitants of bottomlands in this area, but they are “dangerous-looking” (see photos) and I’m guessing that most of them were removed during the establishment of Fort Worth parks along the Trinity River. A young one can be seen along the inlet banks near the RR Depot and it seems likely that a few might also be found within the undeveloped woods (the “Thicket”) of Trinity Park,
Across the double-laned Colonial Parkway from the Log Cabin Woods is a large open field, bordered on the north by the Trinity River. All of the large trees (except two) scattered through the field are pecans, surely the reflection of someone who liked that species when the rest of the trees were cleared. The other two are persimmons (see below). Paralleling the river is a thicket of large pecans and American elms with younger trees, with lots of Quihoui privet and vines at the edge. Hackberries and chinaberries are common along here, a tall cottonwood grows from downslope, and ashes, soapberries, ash-leaf maples, mimosas, and white mulberries also are scattered through. A thick-leaved redbud probably is native, different from those with thinner leaves planted within the Log Cabin Woods.
A group of smaller trees is conspicuous in a narrow band between the “Pecan Field” and the road. These were planted as Fort Worth’s All America City Legacy Forest –– a ground-level permanent stone marker among the trees notes “To commemorate the dedication and commitment by the citizens of Fort Worth and our local government for making our city an All America City, 1993-1994.” Here is a disparate collection of Chinese pistacios, Chinese elms, live oaks, Shumard oaks, redbuds, and several bur oaks and cedar elms, all planted closely together.
On the same side of the road as the “Legacy Forest,” but separated and more toward University Drive, is a tall persimmon tree. This tree (in May 2009) had obvious health problems, as all of the leaves were small and slightly yellowish -- in July 09 it looks nearly dead. Two other large persimmons in Pecan Field are very close to this one and, in contrast, are healthy (see photos). All three trees have blackish bark broken up into small squarish blocks, a distinction for of species. Like the honey locust (above), it’s curious why persimmons, beautiful native trees, are not more common in Fort Worth’s naturally wooded parks.
The broad sports field is bordered on the south side by a broad band of trees and shrubs, with lots of diversity -- the zoo is on the other side, across the densely wooded drainage. Both American elm and slippery (red) elm grow along here -- the upper surfaces of the slippery elm leaves are rough, compared to the very smooth surfaces of the American elm leaves. Other common species are bur oak, hackberry, pecan, ash-leaf maple, chinaberry, and cedar elm, with a few redbud, white mulberry, red mulberry, and walnut. Quihoui privet is abundant and glossy privet also is here. Lots of elderberry. An interesting group of invasive species is in the deep drainage near the Zoo administration area -- a mimosa, Chinese pistacio, and a parasol tree.
Out in the field, in a cluster near the small bleachers, are pecans, a Shumard oak, and several young live oaks.
Probably the most interesting “tree walk” in Forest Park is from the RR Loop Area, following the sidewalk to the Train Depot, and then on beside the train tracks as far as the RR Bridge over the inlet. From one end to the other is about 0.4 mile.
At the RR Loop Area, the little grove of trees along the parking area has cedar elms, pecans, and bumelias, and beside the parking lot at the sidewalk are a few large Chinese pistacios. Bur oak, hackberry, and soapberry are scattered in the area, and along the sidewalk toward to the RR Depot are pecans, green ash, soapberry American elm, and Shumard oak.
From the bridge at the RR Depot, looking into the inlet, lots of interesting species grow along the sides of the water -- catalpa, green ash, ash-leaf maple are the most common and honey locust and cottonwood are scattered. A large individual of mesquite and one of paloverde also can be easily seen here. Rough dogwood, baccharis, and Eve’s necklace are common shrubs right in this area.
A diverse mixture of natives and non-natives grows in the thicket and woods along the RR tracks between the two inlets. Trees: young persimmons, pecan, hackberry, green ash, winged elm, bur oak, chinaberry, white mulberry, and bumelia; several large sycamores can be seen along the oxbow where it comes close to the tracks. Shrubs: smooth sumac, rough dogwood, quihoui privet. Vines: Japanese honeysuckle, Virginia creeper, poison ivy, fox grape, racoon grape, and Virginia creeper. A beautiful population of purple-flowered Western ironweed (Vernonia baldwinii) is in flower in early July right along the tracks.
Looking into the inlet from the RR bridge, catalpa, green ash, ash-leaf maple are very common along the banks. A group of nutria apparently live in the area and can be seen around the wood and water just at the bridge.
A ride on the Forest Park Miniature Railroad is wonderful –– the trip runs 5 miles in about 40 minutes, beginning at the FP Depot, crossing three bridges and chugs along all the way to the Duck Pond in Trinity Park before heading back. It’s especially fun for a naturalist who already can identify some of the trees, because the train passes right beside so many of the species.
Acer negundo Ash-leaf maple, box elder Native here, naturally occurring
Albizia julibrissin Mimosa Non-native, naturalized
Bumelia lanuginosa Chittamwood, gum bumelia Native here, naturally occurring
Carya illinoiensis Pecan Native here, naturally occurring
Catalpa speciosa Northern catalpa Native mostly to n USA, naturalized here
Celtis laevigata Hackberry Native here, naturally occurring
Cercis canadensis Redbud Native here, naturally occurring
Diospyros virginiana Persimmon Native here, naturally occurring
Fraxinus pennsylvanica Green ash Native here, naturally occurring
Firmiana simplex Parasol tree Non-native, naturalized
Gleditsia triacanthos Honey locust Native here, naturally occurring
Juglans nigra Black walnut Native here, naturally occurring
Melia azederach Chinaberry Non-native, naturalized
Morus alba White mulberry Non-native, naturalized
Morus rubra Red mulberry Native here, naturally occurring
Platanus occidentalis Sycamore Native here, naturally occurring
Populus deltoides Cottonwood Native here, naturally occurring
Prosopis glandulosa Mesquite Native here, naturally occurring
Prunus caroliniana Cherry laurel Native to south Texas, naturalized here
Quercus muehlenbergii Chestnut oak, chinkapin oak Native to Texas, planted here
Quercus macrocarpa Bur oak Native here, naturally occurring
Quercus shumardii Shumard oak Native here, naturally occurring
Quercus fusiformis Live oak Native to central Texas, planted, probably hybrids
Salix nigra Black willow Native here, naturally occurring
Sapindus drummondii Soapberry Native here, naturally occurring
Ulmus alata Winged elm Native here, naturally occurring
Ulmus americana American elm Native here, naturally occurring
Ulmus crassifolia Cedar elm Native here, naturally occurring
Ulmus parvifolia Chinese elm Non-native, planted
Baccharis neglecta Roosevelt weed Native here, naturally occurring
Cornus drummondii Rough dogwood Native here, naturally occurring
Ligustrum lucidum Glossy privet Non-native, naturalized
Ligustrum quihoui Quihoui privet Non-native, naturalized
Ligustrum sinense Chinese privet Non-native, naturalized
Parkinsonia aculeata Palo verde Native to s Texas, naturalized here
Rhus glabra Smooth sumac Native here, naturally occurring
Sambucus canadensis Elderberry Native here, naturally occurring
Sophora affinis Eve’s necklace Native here, naturally occurring
Ampelopsis cordata Racoon grape Native here, naturally occurring
Campsis radicans Trumpet creeper Native here, naturally occurring
Lonicera japonica Japanese honeysuckle Non-native, naturalized
Parthenocissus quinquefolia Virginia creeper Native here, naturally occurring
Smilax bona-nox Catbrier Native here, naturally occurring
Smilax rotundifolia Catbrier Native here, naturally occurring
Toxicodendron radicans Poison ivy Native here, naturally occurring
Vitis mustangensis Mustang grape Native here, naturally occurring
Vitis vulpina Fox grape Native here, naturally occurring
Guy Nesom, www.guynesom.com
Last update 14 July 2009