March 7, 2016


by Steve Lang, Sul Ross News and Publications

woody plantsTexas A&M University Press has published a book on woody plants authored by Sul Ross State University faculty and students and biologists with Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD).

“Woody Plants of the Big Bend and Trans-Pecos,” a field guide to common browse for wildlife, was published in late January. The book provides color photographs and descriptions of 87 woody plants of the region that are essential for wildlife. “Woody Plants” is presently available on and locally in Alpine at Front Street Books.

Dr. Louis Harveson, professor of Natural Resource Management and the Dan Allen Hughes, Jr. Endowed Director of the Borderlands Research Institute, was assisted by wildlife biologists and range specialists from Sul Ross and TPWD. Former Borderlands Research Institute graduate students Andy James, Reagan Gage and Jason Wagner; and TPWD’s Philip Dickerson, Johnny Arredondo, Shawn Gray, Annaliese Scoggin and Austin Stolte are co-authors on the publication.

“The book identifies key plants to help landowners be better stewards and to cultivate habitat for wildlife, particularly mule deer, elk, pronghorn and desert bighorn sheep,” said Harveson. “We focused on woody plants because they grow year-around and they are extremely important to big game animals as food sources.”

He said the book is a versatile resource: applicable for landowners, ranch managers, hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, as well as students. “Woody Plants” may be incorporated into habitat management and plant identification classes at Sul Ross.

“This book will fill a gap in Texas plant books,” wrote Steve Nelle, former USDA wildlife biologist, “(and) will be an important contribution to wildlife management in the region. There are no similar books like this one.”

Charles R. Hart, author of “Brush and Weeds of Texas Rangelands” and co-author or “Toxic Plants of Texas,” said the work “…adds a contribution to the management of the Trans-Pecos rangelands. This book does an excellent job of bringing the two biotypes (flora and fauna) together in a practical, easy to understand format. The photography is outstanding as well.”

Harveson said the book is the result of several years’ work. “We talked about doing this book about eight years ago, and it took nearly that long to get it done. Three former students (Gage, James and Wagner) took a lot of photographs and catalogued many plants during their graduate studies.”

“Texas Parks and Wildlife had also talked about putting something together. We decided to combine forces, and we came out with a much nicer and more extensive result,” said Harveson.

The book went to press in mid-2015 and “was absolutely a team effort,” according to Harveson.

“All of us have our own strengths, and this is not just ‘by rote’ information for any of us. We used tacit knowledge, but also had to dig into our reference manuals.” He added that taking distinguishable photos of fruit, flower, stem and leaves of each plant was a priority.

“The book contains good macros (close-ups) that will enable readers to identify ‘Species A’ from ‘Species B.’”

Harveson praised the legacy established by two distinguished Sul Ross botanists, the late Dr. Barton Warnock and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dr. Michael Powell, for their numerous books describing the flora of the region.

“It is pretty humbling to think that we will be adding in some respect to the extensive works of these noted Sul Ross scientists,” he said. “Their productivity has been amazing, especially at a small university, and we are grateful to be able to make a contribution.”

For more information, please contact Dr. Louis Harveson.