Tillery Park and surrounding areas are within the broader Forest Park/Fort Worth Zoo, just off Forest Park Boulevard and Rockridge Terrace. The Zoo and Forest Park Swimming Pool are just down the steep slopes on the west and south side. The park has a wonderful playground area that was built entirely with donated funds, materials, labor, and tools, all raised from local businesses, civic groups, families, and individuals, and a grant from the FW Parks & Recreation Department (tillerypark.org). Nice open areas are maintained behind the play area (photos; map).
Cedar elms (Ulmus crassifolia) are the most common trees around the playground area. Live oaks and hackberries are scattered around, and a Chinese elm, Chinese pistacio, and sycamore are at the front of the playground. Breath-of-spring honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is a common “escaped” shrub in the area, perhaps the offspring of a large individual on the north side of the parking area in front of the playground.
To these eyes, though, the most prominent botanical feature of the park area is the profusion of Quihoui privet (Ligustrum quihoui). Impenetrable masses of it. Great green gobs of thicket. If you want to see what a rampant weedy shrub can do, look here. The privet is held back from the open areas and doesn’t destroy the beauty and use of the park, but one can almost feel the invasive energy looming on all sides, ready to crowd in at the release of restraint. You also can see the privet thicket along Park Place Drive, paralleling the Zoo toward the pool –– look along the slope and upward (toward Tillery Park). There’s also a large area along the road where shrubby vitex has become part of the thicket. For a very similar privet experience (thicket on all sides), stand within the nearby Zoo overflow parking area (Trees and shrubs of Forest Park).
At the back end of the Tillery Park, at the edge of the slope, is an overlook bounded by a low stone wall. In pre-privet days, there surely were good views of the zoo to the west and northwest. Walk along the edge to the south and there’s a broad vista toward the St. Stephen Presbyterian Church (see photos) –– the Forest Park pool, nearly directly below, is hidden from view.
Near the zoo overlook, a little trail leads steeply down a stone walkway from the open area, crosses the creek, and then goes back up to another broad open field in the park area to the north (bounded on the north by Kensington Court, on the east by Rockridge Terrace). The creek and ravine, once a wooded grotto, now is completely privet-filled and the trail has become a rabbit-hole tunnel.
In the open field, each of the trees is curiously enveloped at the base by a mass of the privet, like a ballooning skirt, as if the trees were launching like rockets and blasting out a cloud of privet. On the west side of the field, the steep slope toward the Zoo is a natural terrace boundary of the Trinity River floodplain. Before its privetization, it apparently would have been seen as an open rocky slope with scattered small trees, shrubs, yucca, prickly pear cactus, and native species of grasses and flowering herbs (including Opuntia macrorhiza, Yucca pallida, Liatris mucronata, Eriogonum longifolium, Grindelia texana, and others). Vestiges of the original vegetation still persist along the lip of the slope.
To clear the privet thickets from the overlook, the grotto, and the zoo slope would be a great restoration project. Much energy would be required and it would take persistence through several years to permanently remove the privet, but what a great reward for the restored beauty and natural ecology of the area.
Guy Nesom, www.guynesom.com
Last update 24 Aug 2009