W. 11th St Restoration Project
PUBLISHED: October 2023 By Liz Rebstad, HPB Conservation Technician
The coastal tallgrass prairie is a unique and significant ecosystem along the Texas Gulf Coast. Prairies contain rich biodiversity, many of which are endemic to the region and not found anywhere else on Earth. The tallgrass prairie is characterized by a diverse number of native grasses and wildflowers. These native plants are well adapted to the region’s climate and soil conditions. Native prairie plants have extensive root systems that reach deep into the soil and play a vital role in soil erosion. The native prairie plants also provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife including grassland birds, pollinators, and small mammals.
Due to rapid urbanization and agriculture, the coastal tallgrass prairie has been critically in danger. All around Houston, many organizations have been working together to ensure restoration and protection of the coastal tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The Houston Parks Board Conservation team is dedicated to restoring pocket prairies throughout the Bayou Greenways system.
Our newest prairie restoration project is located on White Oak Bayou at the corner of T.C. Jester Blvd. and W. 11th Street. This project will focus on restoring 0.7 acres back into native grassland habitat. Before starting this project, we collected extensive data from the existing site. We prioritized species composition (what is already growing at the site), soil health, and wildlife for the initial data collection. After analyzing the data, we concluded that this restoration will be focused on providing proper habitat for native pollinators and the nesting cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) found under the nearby bridges. Cliff swallow use mud to create nests under bridges and along mountain sides. They also have a diet that heavily relies on insects.
How will we add diversity to the cliff swallow’s diet? Native prairie grasses and wildflowers will naturally increase native insect population at the W. 11th Street project. We will also be installing pollinator boxes in the prairie to encourage nesting. The native pollinators burrow into the reed holes and create a home for themselves. Installing pollinator boxes will benefit plant through pollination and pest control and provide nearby cliff swallows with a diverse food supply.
Our phases for this project include invasive species management, tilling the soil to avoid compaction, and adding any soil amendments that might be needed. After the site prepped, we will start with replanting with native plugs sourced from local growers and finish by seeding with native grass and wildflower seed. We will be relying on volunteer support for planting and seeding of the W.11th Street project.
Help us restore Houston’s unique ecosystems, by joining the Houston Parks Board Green Team, a volunteer group that meets on the second Wednesday of every month from 9am to 12pm. You can view our volunteer calendar here, and subscribe to our monthly newsletter here.