Did you know a corps of knowledgeable volunteers provides education, outreach, and service to keep our local water bodies healthy through their efforts right here at home? They’re Texas Waters Specialists, certified through a unique program made possible by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in partnership with The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department. The program is open to adults as well as students in grades 9 – 12.
Classes are free and scheduled throughout the year, and the good news: you can obtain all the needed training hours right here in The Woodlands. You’ll be certified as a Texas Waters Specialist after completing just 8 hours of training based on the Texas Waters curriculum guide (provided by Environmental Services or acquired online). Adults 18 and older receive a certificate and an official pin directly from TPWD designating them as a certified waters specialist. Students under age 18, in grades 9 through 12, register with Environmental Services to report hours and receive your certificate and pin.
Sign up hereif you are interested. You will be notified of classes offered both in person and online, as well as volunteering opportunities. NOTE that Studentsshould onlyuse this link to enroll in the program administered by Environmental Services.
Adults get started by enrolling as TPWD volunteers here. Or find more detailed instructions on how to register with TPWD, by following along with this document.
There are two upcoming in-person Texas Waters Specialist (TWS) Water Labs at the Recreation Center at Rob Fleming Park at 6464 Creekside Forest Drive:
Saturday, June 10 – 8:30 to 12:30pm.
Saturday, July 15 – 8:30 to 11:30am.
Additional or alternative training hours available at the Online Monthly Classes. The 2-Hour TWS Curriculum Class Sessions are on the fourth Monday of every month from 3:30-5:30pm.
Earn your certificate as a Texas Waters Specialist!
Want additional opportunities in water conservation? The Woodlands Township offers many free events, classes, and seminars for residents to learn tips on preserving our waterways like the storm drain marking program, litter cleanup with Keep Texas Beautiful, and more! Learn how to get involved on the Woodlands Township Water Conservation Page. Read all about water conservation in the Woodlands Township online library water conservation articles
Earth Day is an annual celebration on April 22nd to promote environmental awareness. The first Earth Day was in 1970 which started the modern environmental movement. A long-lasting tradition of The Woodlands Township is the annual celebration of Earth Day. This celebration includes the GreenUp litter cleanup event back this past March. This year 611 community volunteers removed over 1,100 lbs of litter!
Coming up on Saturday, May 13th, 2023, from 10 am – 1 pm is the Woodlands Township Earth Day Festival at Northshore Park. Bring your family and friends to celebrate mother earth with fun and educational activities. Enjoy live entertainment, face painting, games, educational displays, and meet organizations that celebrate earth day every day.
Whether you’re outside participating in the Iron Man this weekend or prefer to stay home, The Woodlands Township has many programs and resources to help you celebrate Earth Day. Here are 8 ways to celebrate Earth Day year-round!
1. Conserve Water
Conserving water saves energy, and using less water keeps more in our ecosystems. There are many ways to conserve water from taking shorter showers, turning off the water while you brush your teeth or installing drip irrigation in your garden. Drip irrigation delivers water to your plants right where they need it most- the roots. Learn how to install a simple system yourself at this free workshop Saturday, May 20 from 8 to 11:30 a.m. Register Today to save your place.
2. Plant a Tree
Planting trees has many environmental benefits and can improve the quality of life of the community. Every February, the Woodlands Township hosts an annual community tree planting event. Learn more about the Community Tree Planting Eventon the Woodlands Township website. The Woodlands Township hosts an Annual Arbor Day Tree Giveaway to encourage residents to help reforest our community. If you don’t want to wait until Arbor Day, read the Environmental Services DepartmentNative Trees article to learn the best way to plant a tree and ensure it thrives.
Reducing waste is one of the many things you can do to help lessen your carbon footprint. Read the Recycle-More-Guide to see what and where to recycle beyond the curbside cart! Or save your hard-to-recycle items for the 3R Drive Thru.This special collections day in November gives you the opportunity to drop off items you’re not able to put in your curbside cart.
One way to reduce the amount of waste in landfills is to compost. The Woodlands Township offers free backyard composting classes every year in the spring and fall. If you are interested in trying this at home, you can buy a compost bin from Environmental Services anytime. Learn more about The Woodlands Township Composting Resourceshere.Last October, The Woodlands Township had its firstPumpkin Smash Event. It was a Smashing success and a great way for residents to dispose of their pumpkins in an environmentally friendly manner. Find out details on the Woodlands Township Calendar.
5. Support Wildlife
You can make a difference starting in your own backyard. The Woodlands Township has many programs, workshops, seminars, and volunteer opportunities available to help support your local wildlife. National Pollinator Week is right around the corner, with spring in full bloom there are many ways you can support our native pollinators. Planting native milkweed or nectar-producing plants is a great way to support habitats and encourage pollinators to stop by! Additional resources are in the Environmental Services Blog. Invasive species take over the environment and cause harm to the stability of ecosystems. Join the Woodlands TownshipInvasive Species Task Force to help.
6. Pick Up Litter
Keep the community clean by picking up litter in our public spaces. The Woodlands Township has trash grabbers, gloves, and trash bags available to be picked up by appointment. Also, the Earth Day GreenUp, a community clean-up event takes place every March, and again in September. Both theGreenUp and GreenUp Fall Sweep information can be found on the Woodlands Township website If you’re interested in keeping the Woodlands free of litter Adopt-A-Path is a year-round program that you can apply to join. Additional information can be found on the Adopt-A-Path webpage.
7. Immerse Yourself in Nature
Going outdoors and educating yourself about the wonders of nature is a wonderful way to appreciate the earth. The Woodlands Township has two upcoming events that are great opportunities to learn about nature. The Great Texas Birding Classic will be held on April 29th, at the George Mitchell Nature Preserve. This event is a bird-watching competition across Texas, and the Woodlands Township has a registered team. More information about this event is on the calendar listing. If you can’t attend the Great Texas Birding Classic, we have birding backpacks available to rent year-round for those interested in birding! Make a reservation here
Another event coming up is the Bioblitz during Pollinator Week. It is a two-part event, starting June 19 through June 25 is the week-long community effort to identify as many species as possible through the iNaturalist App. Then join the in-person event on Saturday, June 24th at Rob Flemming to continue the search in person and visit the BioBooth. Read about BioBlitzon The Woodlands Township website.
There are many benefits to gardening, it improves the quality of air in the soil, provides habitat and cover for pollinators, and adds to the aesthetic of the environment. The Woodlands Township provides two home gardening classes, one in the spring and one in the fall which is coming up on August 21st, you can register here. The Woodlands Township administers community gardens, if you’re interested in a garden plot call the Environmental Services department and ask to be connected to the community garden coordinator.
There are many ways to celebrate earth day year-round. Some of those include finding ways to conserve water, planting trees, recycling and composting to reduce waste, supporting local wildlife, picking up litter, and gardening. The Woodlands Township has multiple resources to help you on your journey to becoming more environmentally friendly and connecting with your community. If you have any questions, visitThe Woodlands Township Environmental Services Websiteor search the online library for your favorite topics.
NATIVE PLANT FOCUS | Anacacho Orchid Tree | Bauhinia congesta
While appearing fragile, the anacacho orchid tree is a tough Texas native that offers a profusion of benefits for the home landscape. This member of the pea family blooms in spring, unfurling five-inch-wide clusters of white to pink flowers. Heavy summer rains can bring on a repeat performance of these showy, fragrant, orchid-like flowers, creating a frilly appearance in the landscape.
In The Woodlands (Plant Hardiness Zone 9a), the orchid tree is semi-evergreen The light green butterfly-shaped leaves contrast with the silvery bark and attractive limbs to create an outstanding understory tree or shrub. After getting established over the first year, the orchid tree grows rapidly to about 6’ at maturity. The plant will tolerate part shade although it will produce more blooms in full sun. It is hardy to 15 degrees F and is cold and drought tolerant.
Makes its Own Fertilizer
Maintenance of the orchid tree is easy. The plant makes a beautiful multi-trunked shrub, requiring little to no pruning. No fertilizer is needed because the orchid tree makes its own! This nitrogen-fixing tree hosts soil bacterial known as rhizobia in its roots, which do the actual work of converting nitrogen from the atmosphere into a usable form for plants in exchange for sugars. Avoid planting in turf or other areas you are likely to apply fertilizers, as this native plant becomes lanky and flowering is reduced when the plant is given excess nitrogen.
Orchid trees offer high value to pollinators. It is the host plant for the long-tailed skipper butterfly and the flower nectar attracts many other pollinators including other butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
Good Things Can Be Hard to Find
Locating an anacacho orchid tree may require an online search since it is a plant not commonly sold in stores. Local organizations such as the Texas Native Plant Society and Master Gardener Association sometimes sell this plant in their seasonal plant sales. Plant nurseries located in south Texas also frequently sell the anacacho orchid tree. Your search will be rewarded with an outstanding plant to add to the home landscape.
Learn More About Native Trees This Saturday
Learn much more about home landscaping with native Texas trees by joining us online on Saturday, April 15 from 9 am to 11 am. Michael Merritt, Urban and Community Forestry Program Leader for the Texas A&M Forest Service will share his lifelong expertise with native Texas trees. Michael will guide us through selection, care, and maintenance of trees; specific trees for the home landscape; caring for trees during drought, common tree pests, and the many benefits of trees. Michael was honored in 2021 by his selection as Texas State Arborist of the Year. Register today for this exciting, informative, FREE presentation.
Whether you join us at the Arbor Day Tree Give Away in The Woodlands, or are buying tress from one of the many sales this time of year, here are some great resources to ensure your trees thrive for years to come.
Here is a quick overview of what you’ll find here. Click on a category to jump to each section, or scroll through for all the tree care tips.
After you plant, there’s one more step! Mulch is one of the best things you can do keep moisture in the soil and add organic matter. There is a right and a wrong way to mulch; check out this simple guide to make sure you are helping the tree, not harming it.
Mulching is also important to avoid conflicts between trees and turf grass. Find out why here.
3 Great Pruning Resources
1] This Tree City USA Bulletin covers How to Prune Young Shade Trees. Follow the story of two families who both plant trees, and how those trees turn out in 15 years. Isn’t the one below a thing of beauty? It is the result of judicious pruning throughout the tress life.
2 ] A quick guide to correct pruning is found in this this ISA Guide to Pruning Young Trees. Proper pruning is essential to a tree having a strong structure and pleasing form.
3] Wondering what some of the common mistakes are? This USDA Forest Service Guide has some great pictures on what to avoid as well as how to do it right.
Plant Health Care
Health Care? For Plants? Certainly! Plant Health Care (PHC) is a holistic approach to the care of trees and plants that can save you money, save your trees, and save our environment from needless amounts of toxic chemicals.
The benefits are large following the 5 steps of PHC. Skip to the second page of this Tree City USA Bulletinto find out how to implement PHC in your own yard for healthy and resilient trees.
Right Tree Right Place
Even if you plant the tree correctly, mulch it well and prune it for a strong structure, it won’t matter much if the tree is in the wrong place to begin with. One of the essential functions of trees in SE Texas is to provide cooling summer shade. Think about that and other factors that affect tree placement in this visual guide to determining the Right Tree for the Right Place.
Find a Certified Arborist
If you would like to entrust pruning, assessment and health to a certified professional, the International Society of Arboriculture has a great online tool to find one using your zip code HERE.
And for some talking points to consider in discussing your trees with the Arborist, check out this guide onHow to Hire an Arborist.
Arbor Day is brought to you by The Woodlands Township Environmental Services
Originally started by the Howard Hughes Development Company, since 1977 more than 1.5 million seedlings have been shared with residents to plant in their yard, in community open space reserves and in forest preserves. Participate in one of The Woodlands longest standing traditions and help plant trees today for our community to enjoy for years to come.
“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” Earnest Hemingway said it best. Within our forests, green belts and even our backyards, there is a fight taking place. One that we can all help with: the fight to keep invasive plant species from damaging our native habitats.
Invasive plants are species that exist in habitats outside of their native environment. Introduced accidentally or intentionally, these plants establish themselves – spread – and eventually eliminate native species. Invasive vines grow, unimpeded by natural predators, blocking the sun’s light by overgrowing their native host. Lost along the way is the food and shelter that native wildlife depends on. Invasive plants change the soil chemistry, impact water quality, and alter food webs in our remaining natural areas.
Each of us can take important steps to help in this fight.
Start by keeping invasives out of your home landscape. Some species, such as Japanese honeysuckle, nandina and Asian jasmine, are available for purchase, so shop your local nursery’s native plant section to avoid them. If invasive plants already reside in your landscape, consider replacing them with a native. You’ll prevent their unwanted spread and enjoy the wildlife that natives invite.
Not sure which are the bad guys? HARC Research publishes The Quiet Invasion, a handy identification guide you can search for species of local concern. Report your sightings in our greenspaces through The Woodlands 311 app. Township staff and Invasives Task Force volunteers will start the process of removal.
Now, consider taking it one step further and join the Invasives Task Force. The battle against invasives is a big one but a corps of trained volunteers is helping to turn the tide. As one volunteer puts it:
“The part of vine removal that is always rewarding to me is uncovering our beautiful native species in the understory and to follow-up restoration with natives. In the end, I see the mission of the Task Force to preserve the character of The Woodlands as a remnant forest on the edge of the Piney Woods. The Woodlands is a city ‘in the forest’, not just another suburb.”
Interested in becoming an Invasives Task Force volunteer? By working with our corps of trained volunteers in conjunction with The Township’s invasive species removal program, you can make a big difference in whether all our villages stay green or the invasives win! Attend the next training class for volunteers on February 4, 2023. Full details and registrations available online.