Searching the Texas brushland for a rare, temperamental plant

The author hovers near a Zapata bladderpod specimen. Photo courtesy Sara Johnson

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Deep South Texas is unique. It feels vast and nomadic, sprawling in all directions with hundreds of thousands of acres of ranchland and – if you don’t count the cows or the main thruways along the Rio Grande – sparsely populated. It’s a diverse region, thanks to the confluence of semi-arid and subtropical climates that meet in central South Texas to form a mixture of grasslands and extremely dry uplands.

The Zapata bladderpod is aptly named. It inhabits the Tamaulipan thornscrub, also known as mezquital, a dry ecoregion defined by shrubs and desertlike conditions, with seasonal marshlands and intermittent streams. As we search the dense thickets of shrubs and enormous prickly pear, Opuntia lindheimeri, I begin to think these plants don’t want to be found.

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