Overton Park is distinctive in its huge bur oaks, cedar elms, American elms, hackberries, pecans, Texas oaks, green ashes, and Texas ashes, the most common tree species (PHOTOS OF PARK).  To see the magnificent, thick-branched bur oaks, in particular, is worth the visit.  Texas ash characteristically grows in drier, upland habitats (visit Oakmont Park, for example) but the trees native here in the Trinity River "bottomland” are unmistakably that species.  The Texas state champion Texas ash (big tree, to be nominated) is in the neighborhood immediately to the east. 


            Also beautiful and interesting to see in Overton Park are smaller and less abundant (or less conspicuous) native species, such as the soapberry, gum bumelia, Berlandier’s ash, ash-leaved maple, red mulberry, Mexican plum, and Eve’s necklace.  Berlandier’s ash is at the northern end of its geographic range in Tarrant and Dallas counties -- most of the few I've encountered are relatively small trees  scattered along the drainages, especially at the north end of the park. 


            Native shrubs in the parks are almost completely restricted to the narrow band along the creek that is not mowed or otherwise "maintained."  Most of these species are not abundant or conspicuous and perhaps are overlooked by most who are familiar with the park, but they add an element (like a sparkle) that make the parks much more interesting.  Especially nice are these: Cornus drummondii (rough-leaf dogwood), Forestiera pubescens (elbow bush), Ilex decidua (deciduous holly), Sophora affinis (Eve's necklace), Rhus glabra (smooth  sumac), Sambucus canadensis (elderberry), and Viburnum rufidulum (rusty black haw). 


            To see the greatest diversity of trees, walk along the northern, east-trending spur of the trail (see MAP OF PARK), which closely follows the south side of the deep, natural drainage.  Eve’s necklace is particularly common here.  In most of the rest of Overton Park, the trail is divided and runs along both sides of the creek, passing close to many species.  In Foster Park, the trees have been planted in the last 50-60 years, except for those immediately along one of the small drainages, as all or most of the native ones apparently were cut prior to 1954, the last year when the area was part of a cattle ranch run by the Edwards family (see Tanglewood History).     


Old trees

            Overton Park has lots of "originals."  The top of a cedar elm beside the bball court blew off in a 2010 storm (see park photos) and the rest of the trunk was cut down by the city.  The stump was 63 inches in circumference at 3 feet above the ground, and by a count of its rings, the tree proved to be about 102 years old.  Circumferences of the 10 cedar elms closest to the stump were 36, 47, 50, 51, 56, 58, 64, 70, 66, and 71 inches.  Assuming that these 11 have grown at about the same rate, the trees in this group probably were established between about 60 and 130 years ago, surely an indication of their gradual and natural replacement in those original woods. 


            Some of the Overton Park bur oaks are real multicentenarians.  In 'remnant' sites in the Midwest, bur oaks commonly are 300 to 400 years old, reaching a known maximum of 440 years, and it surely would not be surprising if some of the huge Overton Park trees proved to be that old.  See [Huntsville Trees, Chapter 1] for general comments on tree ages. 



            Toward the south end of Overton Park and particularly in Foster Park, one can see how even the small bits of remaining native vegetation (non-tree) are being overwhelmed by non-native shrubs, particular the Quihoui privet, glossy privet, and Amur honeysuckle.  The Quihoui privet, particularly (here and in other FW parks as well), forms nearly impenetrable thickets.  Removal of these and other invasive species, especially the woody ones, would open up many spaces and allow natives to grow. 


The future

            Without removal of these invasives, and because constant mowing and maintenance prevents natural replacement of native species, it’s interesting to consider how the appearance of these parks may continue to change.  Few if any native species are being replaced.  Some young bur oaks have been planted, but they may not have come from Texas, much less the Fort Worth area.  There are about three young (planted) trees near the north end of Overton Park that are either cedar elm or winged elm (Ulmus alata, not known natively from the park), but their identity won't be known until they're old enough to flower.  A few pecans have been planted near the creek, but I'm guessing that the origin of these is horticultural, since native pecans of Overton Park produce tiny, hard-shelled nuts and are hardly likely to be used for propagation in most places.  A few young oaks, probably Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii), have been planted -- this species occurs natively in Texas, but only east of the Dallas area; our beautiful native oaks (with leaves deeply cut and sharp-pointed lobes) seems to be almost all Texas oak (Quercus buckleyi).  Many chinquapin oaks (Quercus muehlenbergii) were planted in the last 15 years mostly along Overton Park East –– this species is native to north-central Texas but it is rare in this region and I've not seen a single native individual of it in any of the Fort Worth parks.   If the reason these were planted is simply because they were available, there are better reasons. 


            Many other non-native species of trees and shrubs have been planted in Overton and Foster parks and all are interesting to see.  But there's a choice to be made, even if not explicitly, between creating an arboretum and maintaining a 'woods' closer to the original appearance and biology.  Keeping the native species is more of a challenge, but the effort seems worthwhile.  The conservation value of maintaining natural, locally adapted populations of these species, which everywhere are being pushed toward smaller and smaller numbers, is immeasurable.  It's a wonderful opportunity for our own species to be able to maintain populations of these others –– and in the same area that we can enjoy as parks.


            My personal choices for replanting trees in Overton and Foster parks: Ulmus crassifolia (cedar elm), Ulmus americana (American elm), Quercus macrocarpa (bur oak), Fraxinus albicans (Texas ash), Quercus buckleyi (Texas oak), Bumelia lanuginosa (bumelia), Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum), and Sapindus drummondii (soapberry).  Each of these occurs natively in the parks, all of them grow into beautiful trees that would retain the character of the parks.  Fraxinus berlandieriana (Berlandier’s ash) and Morus rubra (red mulberry), and Sophora affinis (Eve's necklace) are mostly understory trees and could be maintained along the creek, where they now grow.  And, of course, since none of the native plants, unless they grow practically in the water or on the steepest slopes, have a chance of regenerating naturally, all of the trees will have to be replanted if they are to remain part of the parks –– this includes Fraxinus pensylvanica (green ash), Acer negundo (ash-leaved maple), Juglans nigra (black walnut), Carya illinoiensis (pecan), Celtis laevigata (hackberry), Salix nigra (black willow), Populus deltoides (cottonwood), and others. 


            All of the native trees and shrubs of the parks produce abundant fruits and seeds that could easily be propagated for replanting.  With only a small, distributed effort by people from surrounding neighborhoods, and perhaps a little guidance in finding seed sources of some of them, all of the tree and shrub species could be regenerated from plants already growing in the parks! 


Layout of the parks

            Most or all of the larger trees in the parks and in the neighborhoods immediately to the east were part of the original, periodically flooded woods in the area.   Floods were relatively common in this low area until completion of Benbrook dam in 1952.  As noted in the general comments on FW parks, Overton Park is in the Trinity River floodplain (and immediate tributaries) and is a quintessential example of a linear park, with remnant flora stretched along recently flooded areas where commerce and residences have not been built.  Other "floodplain" parks in the city have similar vegetation –– Trinity Park and the FW Botanic Garden are essentially an extension of the same linear system and have the same trees (see Trinity Park). 


            End-to-end, Overton and Foster parks form a narrow band that runs 2.5 miles in mostly a north-south direction (MAP OF PARK).  A paved hike & bike trail (TH8 of the Trinity Trail system) runs the whole distance and links to the main Trinity River trail by a 0.8-mile connector (TH3), which crosses under South Hulen Street.  Along the main part of the park, the trail runs along both sides of “Overton Creek” and is interconnected at several points by bridges.  At its northern end, Overton Park (with the trail) turns sharply and runs eastward for 0.6 mile along a large, natural drainage that eventually flows into the Trinity River.  A small pond is near the south end of Foster Park, and at the very end, Kellis Park is only slightly discontinuous from Foster Park (across Granbury Road) –– bringing the total length of all three parks to nearly 3 miles. 



                              (this survey begun 2008, updated as new species encountered)




Acer barbatum                          Southern sugar maple                           Native to east Texas, planted here

Acer negundo                           Ash-leaf maple                            Native here, naturally occurring 

Acer palmatum                         Japanese maple                            Non-native, planted

Ailanthus altissima                     Tree-of-heaven                          Non-native, naturalized

Albizia julibrissin                        Mimosa                                     Non-native, naturalized

Bumelia lanuginosa                    Chittamwood, gum bumelia            Native here, naturally occurring 

Carya illinoiensis                        Pecan                                        Native here, naturally occurring, some planted 

Celtis laevigata                          Hackberry                                    Native here, naturally occurring 

Cercis canadensis                      Redbud                                      Native here, naturally occurring 

Cornus florida                           Dogwood                                    Native to Texas, but not this far west, planted here

Elaeagnus angustifolia                Russian olive                              Non-native, planted

Firmiana simplex                       Parasol tree                                    Non-native, naturalized

Fraxinus berlandieriana              Berlandier ash                               Native here, naturally occurring 

Fraxinus pensylvanica                Green ash                                     Native here, naturally occurring 

Fraxinus albicans                       Texas ash                                    Native here, naturally occurring 

Gleditsia triacanthos                   Honey locust                            Native here, naturally occurring 

Juglans nigra                             Black walnut                                    Native here, naturally occurring 

Juniperus virginiana                   Eastern juniper                           Native here, naturally occurring 

Liquidambar styraciflua              Sweetgum                                    Native to east Texas, planted here

Liriodendron tulipifera                Tuliptree                                                Native to eastern USA, planted here

Maclura pomifera                      Osage orange, bois d’arc                        Native here, naturally occurring

Magnolia grandiflora                  Southern magnolia                        Native to east Texas, planted here, also naturalizing

Magnolia soulangeana                Japanese magnolia                        Non-native, planted

Melia azederach                        Chinaberry                                     Non-native, naturalized

Morus alba                                White mulberry                                    Non-native, naturalized

Morus rubra                              Red mulberry                                    Native here, naturally occurring 

Pistacia chinensis                      Chinese pistacio                          Non-native, planted

Populus deltoides                       Cottonwood                               Native here, naturally occurring 

Prunus caroliniana                     Cherry laurel                             Native to east Texas, naturalized here 

Prunus mexicana                       Mexican plum                              Native here, naturally occurring 

Prunus persica                          Peach                                         Non-native, planted

Prunus sp.                                 Cherry                                        Non-native, planted

Pyrus calleryana                        Bradford pear                              Non-native, planted

Pyrus communis                        Common pear                              Non-native, planted

Quercus buckleyi                       Buckley oak, Texas oak                 Native here, naturally occurring

Quercus muehlenbergii?             Chestnut oak, chinquapin oak         Native to Texas, planted here

Quercus macrocarpa                 Bur oak                                      Native here, naturally occurring 

Quercus shumardii                     Shumard oak                               Native to east Texas, planted here

Salix nigra                                 Black willow                            Native here, naturally occurring 

Sapindus drummondii                 Soapberry                                    Native here, naturally occurring 

Triadica sebifera                       Chinese tallow                            Non-native, naturalized

Taxodium distichum                   Bald cypress                          Native to Texas, planted here

Ulmus americana                      American elm                                Native here, naturally occurring 

Ulmus crassifolia                       Cedar elm                                     Native here, naturally occurring 

Ulmus parvifolia                        Chinese elm, lacebark elm              Non-native, planted

Ulmus rubra                              Slippery elm                                Native here, naturally occurring 




Abelia floribunda                       Abelia                                       Non-native, planted

Buxus sempervirens                  Boxwood                                                 Non-native, planted

Caesalpinia gilliesii                     Poinciana                                     Non-native, planted

Celastrus scandens                    Bittersweet                                      Native to n USA, naturalized here

Chilopsis linearis                        Desert willow                            Native to south Texas, planted here

Cornus drummondii                    Rough-leaf dogwood                       Native here, naturally occurring

Euonymus japonicus                  Euonymus                                    Non-native, planted

Forestiera pubescens                 Elbow bush                             Native here, naturally occurring

Ilex decidua                              Deciduous holly                             Native here, naturally occurring

Ilex vomitoria                            Yaupon                                      Native to east Texas, planted here

Juniperus sabina                        Tam juniper                           Non-native, planted

Lagerstroemia indica                 Crepe myrtle                            Non-native, planted

Leucophyllum frutescens             Leucophyllum                             Native to south Texas, planted here

Ligustrum japonicum                  Japanese privet                            Non-native, planted

Ligustrum lucidum                     Glossy privet                            Non-native, naturalized

Ligustrum quihoui                      Quihoui privet                            Non-native, naturalized

Ligustrum sinense                      Chinese privet                            Non-native, naturalized

Lonicera maackii                       Amur honeysuckle                   Non-native, naturalized

Myrica cerifera                         Bayberry                                    Native to east Texas, planted here

Nandina domestica                    Nandina                                     Non-native, planted and naturalized

Photinia Xfraseri                       Fraser’s photinia                                     Non-native, planted

Photinia serratifolia                    Chinese photinia                         Non-native, naturalized

Podocarpus macrophyllus           Japanese yew                               Non-native, planted

Pyracantha koidzumii                 Fire-thorn                                                Non-native, naturalized

Rhus glabra                               Smooth  Sumac                                    Native here, naturally occurring

Sambucus canadensis                Elderberry                                    Native here, naturally occurring

Sophora affinis                          Eve’s necklace                         Native here, naturally occurring

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus        Coralberry                                     Native here, naturally occurring

Viburnum rufidulum                   Rusty black haw                                   Native here, naturally occurring

Yucca flaccida                          Yucca                                                      Non-native, planted




ACANTHACEAE   Wild Petunia Family

Justicia americana                                 American water willow      Native here, naturally occurring

Ruellia strepens                                     Ruellia                           Native here, naturally occurring


AMARANTHACEAE   Amaranth Family

Alternanthera caracasana                      Mat chaff flower              Non-native, naturalized


AMARYLLIDACEAE   Amaryllis Family

Narcissus pseudonarcissus                     Daffodil                         Non-native, planted, some perhaps naturalized



Toxicodendron radicans                         Poison ivy                      Native here, naturally occurring


APIACEAE   Carrot Family

Hydrocotyle verticillata                          Whorled water pennywort  Native here, naturally occurring

Torilis arvensis                                      Hedge parsley                 Non-native, naturalized

Torilis nodosa                                        Knotted hedge parsley      Non-native, naturalized


ASTERACEAE   Sunflower Family

Acmella oppositifolia var. repens             Creeping spotflower         Native here, naturally occurring

Ambrosia artemisiifolia                          Common ragweed                Native here, naturally occurring

Ambrosia trifida                                    Giant ragweed                 Native here, naturally occurring

Calyptocarpus vialis                               Horse herb                     Native here, naturally occurring

Cirsium texanum                                   Texas thistle                   Native here, naturally occurring

Conyza canadensis                                Horseweed                     Native here, naturally occurring

Coreopsis wrightii                                  Rock coreopsis                Native here, naturally occurring

Engelmannia peristenia                          Cutleaf daisy                   Native here, naturally occurring

Evax verna                                           Evax                              Native here, naturally occurring

Facelis retusa                                        Facelis                           Non-native, naturalized

Gamochaeta pensylvanica                      Cudweed                        Native to e USA, naturalize here

Hedypnois cretica                                  Hedypnois                     Non-native, naturalized

Lactuca serriola                                    Prickly lettuce                 Non-native, naturalized

Pyrrhopappus carolinianus                      Carolina false dandelion    Native here, naturally occurring

Sonchus asper                                       Prickly sow thistle            Non-native, naturalized

Symphyotrichum divaricatum                  Wireweed, slim aster         Native here, naturally occurring

Symphyotrichum eulae                           Eula’s aster                     Native here, naturally occurring

Taraxacum laevigatum                           Red-fruit dandelion          Non-native, naturalized

Taraxacum officinale                             Common dandelion          Non-native, naturalized

Tragopogon dubius                                Goat’s beard                   Non-native, naturalized


BRASSICACEAE   Mustard Family

Capsella bursa-pastoris                          Shepherd’s purse             Non-native, naturalized

Lepidium virginicum                               Pepper grass                   Native here, naturally occurring

Nasturtium officinale                             Watercress                     Non-native, naturalized

Rapistrum rugosum                                Rapistrum                       Non-native, naturalized

Rorippa palustris                                    Bog yellowcress                Native 


CAPRIFOLIACEAE   Honeysuckle Family

Lonicera japonica                                  Japanese honeysuckle      Non-native, naturalized



Polycarpon tetraphyllum                         Four-leaf manyseed          Non-native, naturalized

Stellaria media                                       Chickweed                      Non-native, naturalized


CELASTRACEAE   Bittersweet Family

Euonymus fortunei                                 Creeping euonymus         Non-native, naturalized


CHENOPODIACEAE   Goosefoot Family

Chenopodium album                              Pigweed                         Non-native, naturalized

Chenopodium berlandieri                        Pit-seed goosefoot           Native here, naturally occurring


COMMELINACEAE   Spiderwort Family

Commelina communis                            Common dayflower              Native here, naturally occurring


CONVOLVULACEAE   Morning Glory Family

Convolvulus arvensis                             Bindweed                       Non-native, naturalized

Dichondra carolinensis                           Ponyfoot                        Native here, naturally occurring

Ipomoea cordatotriloba                          Morning glory, tievine      Native here, naturally occurring

Ipomoea coccinea                                     Scarlet creeper                      Native here, naturally occurring


CYPERACEAE   Sedge Family

Carex sp.                                              Sedge                            Native here, naturally occurring

Carex sp.                                              Sedge                            Native here, naturally occurring

Carex sp.                                              Sedge                            Native here, naturally occurring


EUPHORBIA   Spurge Family

Chamaesyce maculata                           Spotted spurge                Native here, naturally occurring

Ditaxis humilis                                       Low wild mercury             Native here, naturally occurring


FABACEAE   Bean Family

Desmanthus leptolobus                          Prairie mimosa                 Native here, naturally occurring

Medicago lupulina                                  Black Medic, hop clover    Non-native, naturalized

Medicago minima                                  Bur clover                      Non-native, naturalized

Sesbania herbacea                                 Coffee bean sesbane     Native here, naturally occurring

Trifolium repens                                    White clover                   Non-native, naturalized

Vicia sativa                                           Common vetch                Non-native, naturalized


GERANIACEAE   Geranium Family

Erodium cicutarium                                Pin-clover, filaree             Non-native, naturalized

Geranium dissectum                              European crane’s-bill        Non-native, naturalized


LAMIACEAE   Mint Family

Lamium amplexicaule                            Henbit                           Non-native, naturalized

Lamium purpureum                               Purple dead-nettle            Non-native, naturalized

Salvia greggii                                         Gregg’s sage                   Native to s, c, and w Texas, planted here


LILIACEAE   Lily Family

Allium canadense                                  Wild onion, Canada garlic Native here, naturally occurring

Allium drummondii                                 Prairie onion                   Native here, naturally occurring

Liriope spicata                                       Lilyturf, small monkey-grass  Non-native, naturalized

Muscari racemosum                              Grape hyacinth                Non-native, naturalized

Nothoscordum bivalve                           Crow lily                        Native here, naturally occurring

Ophiopogon japonicus                            Monkey-grass                      Non-native, naturalized?

Smilax bona-nox                                    Catbrier, saw greenbrier     Native here, naturally occurring


MALVACEAE   Mallow Family

Modiola caroliniana                                Carolina modiola              Native here, naturally occurring


MENISPERMACEAE   Moonseed Family

Cocculus carolina                                  Coralvine, coralbead         Native here, naturally occurring


ONAGRACEAE   Evening Primrose Family

Gaura drummondii                                 Sweet gaura                    Native here, naturally occurring

Oenothera speciosa                               Buttercup                       Native here, naturally occurring


OXALIDACEAE   Oxalis Family

Oxalis dillenii                                         Dillen’s woodsorrel          Native here, naturally occurring



Argemone polyanthemos                        White prickly poppy         Native here, naturally occurring


PASSIFLORACEAE   Passionflower Family

Passiflora lutea                                      Yellow passionflower          Native here, naturally occurring


PLANTAGINACEAE   Plantain Family

Plantago lanceolata                                English plantain               Non-native, naturalized

Plantago rhodosperma                           Red-seed plantain            Native here, naturally occurring


POACEAE   Grass Family

Avena fatua                                          Wild oats                               Non-native, naturalized

Avena sativa                                         Cultivated oats                Non-native, naturalized

Bothriochloa ischaemum                        King Ranch bluestem        Non-native, naturalized

Bromus catharticus                                Rescue grass                  Non-native, naturalized

Bromus japonicus                                  Japanese brome               Non-native, naturalized

Bromus secalinus                                  Rye brome                      Non-native, naturalized

Buchloe dactyloides                               Buffalo grass                  Native here, naturally occurring

Chasmanthium latifolium                        Wild oats                       Native here, naturally occurring

Chloris verticillata                                  Windmill grass               Native here, naturally occurring

Cynodon dactylon                                  Bermuda grass                Non-native, naturalized

Elymus virginicus                                   Virginia wild rye               Native here, naturally occurring

Lolium perenne                                     Italian ryegrass                Non-native, naturalized

Paspalum dilatatum                                Dallis grass                     Non-native, naturalized

Poa annua                                             Annual bluegrass             Non-native, naturalized

Phyllostachys aurea                               Golden bamboo               Non-native, naturalized

Sorghum halepense                                Johnson grass                 Non-native, naturalized


POLYGONACEAE   Knotweed Family

Polygonum aviculare                              Prostrate knotweed          Non-native, naturalized

Rumex crispus                                      Curly dock                      Non-native, naturalized


RANUNCULACEAE   Buttercup Family

Clematis ternifolia                                  Sweet autumn clematis      Non-native, naturalized

Ranunculus ficaria                                 Lesser celandine              Non-native, naturalized

Ranunculus muricatus                            Rough-seed buttercup      Non-native, naturalized


ROSACEAE   Rose Family

Geum canadense                                   White avens                   Native here, naturally occurring


RUBIACEAE   Madder Family

Galium aparine                                      Bedstraw                        Non-native, naturalized

Sherardia arvensis                                 Field madder                   Non-native, naturalized



Veronica arvensis                                  Common speedwell          Non-native, naturalized

Veronica anagallis-aquatica                          Water speedwell                  Non-native, naturalized

Veronkica persica                                 Persian speedwell            Non-native, naturalized


VERBENACEAE   Verbena Family

Glandularia bipinnatifida                         Prairie verbena                Native here, naturally occurring

Phyla nodiflora                                      Common frogfruit              Native here, naturally occurring


VIOLACEAE   Violet Family

Viola sororia                                         Bayou violet                    Native here, naturally occurring



Phoradendron leucarpum                       Mistletoe                       Native here, naturally occurring


VITACEAE   Grape Family

Cissus incisa                                         Cowitch                         Native here, naturally occurring

Vitis mustangensis                                 Mustang grape                Native here, naturally occurring

Vitis vulpina                                          Fox grape                       Native here, naturally occurring



Guy Nesom,

Last update 20 November 2013