Ecological site R150AY741TX
Northern Loamy Prairie
Last updated: 9/20/2019
Provisional. A provisional ecological site description has undergone quality control and quality assurance review. It contains a working state and transition model and enough information to identify the ecological site.
Figure 1. Mapped extent
Areas shown in blue indicate the maximum mapped extent of this ecological site. Other ecological sites likely occur within the highlighted areas. It is also possible for this ecological site to occur outside of highlighted areas if detailed soil survey has not been completed or recently updated.
Major Land Resource Area (MLRA): 150A–Gulf Coast Prairies
MLRA 150A is in the West Gulf Coastal Plain Section of the Coastal Plain Province of the Atlantic Plain in Texas (83 percent) and Louisiana (17 percent). It makes up about 16,365 square miles (42,410 square kilometers). It is characterized by nearly level plains that have low local relief and are dissected by rivers and streams that flow toward the Gulf of Mexico. Elevation ranges from sea level to about 165 feet (0 to 50 meters) along the interior margin. It includes the towns of Crowley, Eunice, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Beaumont, Houston, Bay City, Victoria, Corpus Christi, Robstown, and Kingsville, Texas. Interstates 10 and 45 are in the northeastern part of the area, and Interstate 37 is in the southwestern part. U.S. Highways 90 and 190 are in the eastern part, in Louisiana. U.S. Highway 77 passes through Kingsville, Texas. The Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge and the Fannin Battleground State Historic Site are in the part of the area in Texas.
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2006.
-Major Land Resource Area (MLRA) 150A
Ecological site concept
The Loamy ecological site is characterized by very deep loamy soils occurring on uplands. They are vegetatively productive and provide good grazing for livestock.
The claypan prairie site has heavier surface textures.
The lowland site is located in a depressional landform and ponds.
The Blackland site has a heavier surface texture.
The salty prairie site has elevated levels of salinity and SAR.
The sandy prairie site has a coarser surface texture.
Table 1. Dominant plant species
This site was formed from loamy, silty, and clayey sediments in the Beaumont, Willis, and Lissie formations of late Pleistocene age. The nearly level to very gently sloping soils of this site are on meander scrolls and flats of the upper Texas coastal plain and eastern Louisiana landscape. Slopes are mainly less than 1 percent but range from 0 to 2 percent. Runoff is generally low for most soils in this site. Elevations range from 10 to 250 feet.
Table 2. Representative physiographic features
|Elevation||10 – 250 ft|
|Water table depth||18 – 60 in|
|Aspect||Aspect is not a significant factor|
The climate of MLRA 150A is humid subtropical with mild winters. The average annual precipitation in the northern two-thirds of this area is 45 to 63 inches. It is 28 inches at the extreme southern tip of the area and 30 to 45 inches in the southwestern third of the area. The precipitation is fairly evenly distributed, but it is slightly higher in late summer and midsummer in the western part of the area and slightly higher in winter in the eastern part. Rainfall typically occurs as moderate intensity, tropical storms that produce large amounts of rain during the winter. The average annual temperature is 66 to 72 degrees F. The freeze-free period averages 325 days and ranges from 290 to 365 days, increasing in length to the southwest.
Table 3. Representative climatic features
|Frost-free period (characteristic range)||232-254 days|
|Freeze-free period (characteristic range)||326-365 days|
|Precipitation total (characteristic range)||48-58 in|
|Frost-free period (actual range)||223-297 days|
|Freeze-free period (actual range)||223-365 days|
|Precipitation total (actual range)||44-60 in|
|Frost-free period (average)||251 days|
|Freeze-free period (average)||337 days|
|Precipitation total (average)||53 in|
Figure 2. Monthly precipitation range
Figure 3. Monthly minimum temperature range
Figure 4. Monthly maximum temperature range
Figure 5. Monthly average minimum and maximum temperature
Figure 6. Annual precipitation pattern
Figure 7. Annual average temperature pattern
Climate stations used
(1) BEAUMONT CITY [USC00410611], Vidor, TX
(2) EL CAMPO [USC00412786], El Campo, TX
(3) COLUMBUS [USC00411911], Columbus, TX
(4) SEALY [USC00418160], Sealy, TX
(5) NEW GULF [USC00416286], Boling, TX
(6) ANGLETON 2 W [USC00410257], Angleton, TX
(7) THOMPSONS 3 WSW [USC00418996], Richmond, TX
(8) HOUSTON HOOKS MEM AP [USW00053910], Tomball, TX
(9) ALVIN [USC00410204], Alvin, TX
(10) HOUSTON NWSO [USC00414333], Dickinson, TX
(11) HOUSTON HOBBY AP [USW00012918], Houston, TX
(12) HOUSTON SAN JACINTO DA [USC00414328], Houston, TX
(13) BAYTOWN [USC00410586], Crosby, TX
(14) ANAHUAC [USC00410235], Anahuac, TX
(15) BEAUMONT RSCH CTR [USC00410613], Beaumont, TX
(16) PORT ARTHUR SE TX AP [USW00012917], Port Arthur, TX
Influencing water features
Water table depths will fluctuate according to the season of the year. Typically the water table will be highest during the winter and early spring when warm-season vegetation is not drawing moisture from the soil. The site is not influenced by flooding or ponding.
The soils are very deep, very dark gray to very dark grayish brown, very strongly acid to neutral loamy uplands. They have a thick loamy noneffervescent surface from 18 to 30 inches thick over slowly permeable clayey subsoils. The soils hold moderate amounts of water and are moderately fertile. Runoff is low and erosion is negligible. Soils correlated to this site include: Addicks, Algoa, Anahuac, Chesterville, Cyfair, Hockley, Katy, Kemah, Labelle, Levac, Meaton, Mocarey, Mockley, Morey, Orcadia, Spindletop, Viterbo, Winnie, Wockley, and Yeaton.
Table 4. Representative soil features
(2) Silt loam
(3) Fine sandy loam
|Family particle size||
|Drainage class||Somewhat poorly drained to moderately well drained|
|Permeability class||Very slow to moderately slow|
|Soil depth||80 in|
|Available water capacity
|7 – 9 in|
|Calcium carbonate equivalent
|Sodium adsorption ratio
|Soil reaction (1:1 water)
|4.5 – 7.3|
|Subsurface fragment volume <=3"
(Depth not specified)
The pre-settlement plant community on the upper Texas and lower Louisiana Coastal Prairie was a tallgrass prairie interspersed with occasional mottes of live oak or loblolly pine. Soils, climate, fire, and grazing by native wild herbivores were the major influences. There are historic records that fires commonly occurred on the Coast but none that definitively describe the frequency, timing, or intensity of fires. Annual to bi-annual (late summer and late winter) fire frequencies are mentioned in historic accounts.
Under the influences mentioned above, this prairie site was dominated by tall and midgrasses. Major tallgrasses include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), yellow Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Dominant midgrass species include Florida paspalum (Paspalum floridanum), marshhay cordgrass (Spartina patens), gulfhairawn muhly (Muhlenbergia filipes), brownseed paspalum (Paspalum plicatulum), bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus), longspike tridens (Tridens strictus), and meadow dropseed (Sporobolus compositus). Perennial forbs include herbaceous mimosa (Mimosa strigillosa), bundleflower (Desmanthus spp.), button snake root (Eryngium yuccifolium), and gayfeather (Liatris spp.).
Excessive grazing by domestic livestock contributes to the reduction or elimination of big bluestem, yellow Indiangrass, switchgrass, and little bluestem. As the site deteriorates, species such as brownseed paspalum, marshhay cordgrass, bushy bluestem, knotroot bristlegrass (Setaria parviflora), longspike tridens, and carpet grass (Axonopus sp.). Nonnatives such as Dallisgrass (Paspalum dilatatum), smutgrass (Sporobolus indicus),
bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum), and bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) increase. In addition to site degradation due to excessive grazing, farming to rice, corn, and grain sorghum has had a significant influence. Not only has the site changed through the loss of native plant communities from cultivation, but also through the change in soils, hydrology, and topography by land leveling, ditching, and leveeing.
Continued overuse of the site by livestock, lack of fire, or abandonment of cropping allows woody plants to invade. These woody pioneers include huisache (Acacia farnesiana),
yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), eastern baccharis (Baccharis halmifolia), wax myrtle (Morella cerifera), hackberry (Celtis sp.), common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), and ash (Fraxinus sp.). Chinese tallow (Triadica sebifera) and McCartney rose (Rosa bracteata) are common nonnative invaders. As the plant community transitions from tall/midgrass prairie to mid/shortgrass prairie to shrub/tree complexes, changes occur in plant composition, biomass production, litter accumulation, and water infiltration. These changes influence most treatment alternatives including the ability to use fire as a management tool.
The resulting increase in woody plant density signifies that a threshold has been crossed. Once this threshold is crossed, restoration back towards the reference plant community becomes much more difficult and expensive. Even though a plant community similar may be restored by practices such as mechanical and herbicidal brush management, re-seeding, prescribed grazing, and fire, this community cannot be maintained without the continuous use of these tools on a frequent basis.
State and transition model
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Click on state and transition labels to scroll to the respective text
The reference plant community is a grassland composed of tall and midgrasses. Tallgrasses make up over 60 percent, midgrasses approximately 35 percent, and other associated grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees make the remainder of the plant community. Annual forbs occur in varying amounts in response to disturbance from grazing, fire, or drought. Chronic overgrazing results in a reduction of biomass, reduced litter accumulation, loss of tallgrasses and some midgrasses, and less ability to use fire effectively for management. Some mid and shortgrasses increase because of this overgrazing. Prescribed grazing, prescribed burning, and/or the application of herbicides is necessary to keep invading woody species such as huisache, Macartney rose, yaupon, wax myrtle, and/or Chinese tallow from invading.
Figure 8. Annual production by plant type (representative values) or group (midpoint values)
Table 5. Annual production by plant type
Figure 9. Plant community growth curve (percent production by month). TX7605, Tallgrass Prairie Community. Prairie community composed of dominant warm-season tallgrasses with some warm-season midgrasses..
This community develops as heavy continuous grazing begins to remove the tallgrass component of the reference community. As tallgrasses decrease, midgrasses such as meadow dropseed, brownseed paspalum, marshhay cordgrass, and longspike tridens increase. Annual and perennial forbs, sedges, flat sedges, and other grass-likes often increase. Continued heavy grazing contributes to further degradation and loss of more palatable midgrasses. Invasion of woody species begins. Prescribed grazing along with prescribed burning or weed control is necessary to move back towards the reference community. Where haying occurs, less frequent cutting (once per year) and timing of cutting (prior to July 1st) may improve species composition and vigor.
Community 1.1 to 1.2
Heavy continuous grazing and lack of fire will transition the site to Community 1.2.
Community 1.2 to 1.1
Prescribed grazing with correct stocking rates and a return of fire will transition Community 1.2 back to the reference community.
This community occurs because of continuous heavy grazing, loss of fire as a tool, greatly altered water and energy cycles, and invasion of woody plants. A threshold has been crossed from the reference state. If prescribed grazing is implemented, fire re-introduced, and seedling woody plants controlled, this community can be quite productive for cattle and wildlife and can be maintained indefinitely. To do so will require judicious grazing, periodic fire, and frequent applications of herbicide or mechanical treatments on an individual plant basis. This state can be utilized by a different set of wildlife like white-tailed deer because of the increased amount of woody cover and the increased production of both perennial and annual forbs. Grassland bird species will decline for the same reasons.
Over time, with continued heavy grazing or no fire or other brush management, the site will continue to transition into a huisache, hackberry, and ash woodland with canopies more than 25 percent. Chinese tallow is a nonnative species that commonly invades. The community may be a monoculture of one woody species or a combination of any of the species. The herbaceous community will be greatly reduced and may include gaping panicum, winter bentgrass, sedges, and flat sedges. Major inputs, both chemical and mechanical, are required to restore this community to grassland or savannah. A common practice is the use of aerially applied herbicides to reduce the canopy followed by prescribed fire or mechanical treatments to remove the woody vegetation and maintain semi-open wooded grassland for several years. Although these practices kill some of the woody vegetation, much of it remains and re-sprouts from the crown. Often with this community, mechanical treatments such as rootplowing, tree dozing, and raking are employed and the land is converted to cropland or pasture.
Community 2.1 to 2.2
Abusive grazing, lack brush management, and lack of fire transition to Community 2.1.
This community occurs when the site is manipulated through practices such as mechanical brush control, land leveling, cultivation, and pasture planting. If not converted to crops such as rice, corn, or grain sorghum, introduced grasses are planted for livestock forage. Introduced grasses adapted to the site include bermudagrass, bahiagrass, switchgrass, and yellow bluestems. Management practices like weed control, brush control, and fertility maintenance must be applied to keep this state in a cropable condition or as grassland. Invasion by woody species, sedges, and flatsedges is a continuous threat. Not only is there a long-lived seed source of Chinese tallow, huisache, yaupon, and other woody species, additional seed are brought in by grazing animals and domestic livestock.
Converted Land with Woody Encroachment
When these pastures quit receiving annual management, the native grasses that once occupied the site along with numerous annual forbs and woody plants begin appearing on the site. Without the fertilizer, the native grasses become reestablished on the area. As the dominant grasses change from the seeded grasses to native species, the site produces large amounts of annual forbs and usually has a weedy appearance. Brush management and prescribed fire will be needed to keep the brush from becoming dominant. The use of fire will hasten the process back toward the native grasses although the non-natives will always be a component. Once the Converted Site has been established to the non-native plants, even replanting of the native plants would meet with limited success as far as completely returning to the reference plant community. The site may resemble the reference community, but if soil degradation is severe enough, full restoration may be impossible.
Community 3.1 to 3.2
With heavy grazing and no brush control, woody species will encroach the site.
Community 3.2 to 3.1
Seedling brush control, prescribed grazing, and possibly prescribed fire will transition the community back to 3.1.
State 1 to 2
Heavy grazing, lack of fire, and brush invasion over 10 percent canopy signal the transition to State 2.
State 1 to 3
Conversion signals this transition by preparing a seedbed and planting to pasture.
Restoration pathway R2A
State 2 to 1
Restoration occurs when brush management reduces the canopy cover below 10 percent, prescribed grazing restores correct stocking rates, and once grasses have created enough biomass, prescribed fire returns.
State 2 to 3
Conversion signals this transition by clearing brush, preparing a seedbed, and planting to pasture.
Restoration pathway R3A
State 3 to 1
Conversion of the site back to reference community grasses is required for restoration. Eliminating all introduced species from the site is difficult, and if enough degradation has occurred to the soils, full restoration may not be attainable.
State 3 to 2
Without brush control to manage encroaching woody seedlings, the site will transition to State 2.
Additional community tables
Table 6. Community 1.1 plant community composition
|Group||Common name||Symbol||Scientific name||Annual production (lb/acre)||Foliar cover (%)|
|big bluestem||ANGE||Andropogon gerardii||2565–4845||–|
|little bluestem||SCSCS||Schizachyrium scoparium var. scoparium||2565–4845||–|
|silver beardgrass||BOLAT||Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana||855–1615||–|
|gulfhairawn muhly||MUFI3||Muhlenbergia filipes||855–1615||–|
|Florida paspalum||PAFL4||Paspalum floridanum||855–1615||–|
|brownseed paspalum||PAPL3||Paspalum plicatulum||855–1615||–|
|marsh bristlegrass||SEPA10||Setaria parviflora||855–1615||–|
|Drummond's dropseed||SPCOD3||Sporobolus compositus var. drummondii||855–1615||–|
|saltmeadow cordgrass||SPPA||Spartina patens||855–1615||–|
|gulf cordgrass||SPSP||Spartina spartinae||855–1615||–|
|white tridens||TRAL2||Tridens albescens||855–1615||–|
|longspike tridens||TRST2||Tridens strictus||855–1615||–|
|winter bentgrass||AGHY||Agrostis hyemalis||200–400||–|
|fall witchgrass||DICO6||Digitaria cognata||200–400||–|
|Scribner's rosette grass||DIOLS||Dichanthelium oligosanthes var. scribnerianum||200–400||–|
|Virginia wildrye||ELVI3||Elymus virginicus||200–400||–|
|gaping grass||STHI3||Steinchisma hians||200–400||–|
|Cuman ragweed||AMPS||Ambrosia psilostachya||200–375||–|
|spiny chloracantha||CHSP11||Chloracantha spinosa||200–375||–|
|whitemouth dayflower||COER||Commelina erecta||200–375||–|
|wedgeleaf prairie clover||DAEM2||Dalea emarginata||200–375||–|
|Illinois bundleflower||DEIL||Desmanthus illinoensis||200–375||–|
|velvet bundleflower||DEVE2||Desmanthus velutinus||200–375||–|
|blacksamson echinacea||ECAN2||Echinacea angustifolia||200–375||–|
|Engelmann's daisy||ENPE4||Engelmannia peristenia||200–375||–|
|button eryngo||ERYU||Eryngium yuccifolium||200–375||–|
|coastal indigo||INMI||Indigofera miniata||200–375||–|
|dotted blazing star||LIPU||Liatris punctata||200–375||–|
|littleleaf sensitive-briar||MIMI22||Mimosa microphylla||200–375||–|
|yellow puff||NELU2||Neptunia lutea||200–375||–|
|white milkwort||POAL4||Polygala alba||200–375||–|
|upright prairie coneflower||RACO3||Ratibida columnifera||200–375||–|
|violet wild petunia||RUNU||Ruellia nudiflora||200–375||–|
|Baldwin's ironweed||VEBA||Vernonia baldwinii||200–375||–|
|great ragweed||AMTR||Ambrosia trifida||25–50||–|
|partridge pea||CHFAF||Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata||25–50||–|
|Dakota mock vervain||GLBIB||Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida||25–50||–|
|annual marsh elder||IVAN2||Iva annua||25–50||–|
|eastern annual saltmarsh aster||SYSU5||Symphyotrichum subulatum||25–50||–|
|herb of the cross||VEOF||Verbena officinalis||25–50||–|
|eastern baccharis||BAHA||Baccharis halimifolia||0–10||–|
|wax myrtle||MOCE2||Morella cerifera||0–10||–|
|southern dewberry||RUTR||Rubus trivialis||0–10||–|
|netleaf hackberry||CELAR||Celtis laevigata var. reticulata||0–10||–|
|green ash||FRPE||Fraxinus pennsylvanica||0–10||–|
|loblolly pine||PITA||Pinus taeda||0–10||–|
|live oak||QUVI||Quercus virginiana||0–10||–|
The Coastal Prairie communities support a wide array of animals. Cattle and many species of wildlife make extensive use of the site. White-tailed deer may be found scattered across the prairie and are found in heavier concentrations where woody cover exists. Feral hogs are present and at times abundant. Coyotes are abundant and fill the mammalian predator niche. Rodent populations rise during drier periods and fall during periods of inundation. Attwater’s pocket gophers are abundant and have an important impact on the ecology of the site. The badger is present but not abundant in locations at the southern extent of the site. Locally unique species alligators and bullfrogs.
The region is a major flyway for waterfowl and migrating birds. Hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes abound during winter. Two important endangered species occur in the area, the whooping crane and Attwater’s prairie chicken. Many other species of avian predators including northern harriers, ferruginous hawks, red-tailed hawks, white-tailed kites, kestrels, and, occasionally, swallow-tailed kites utilize the vast grasslands. Many species of grassland birds use the site, including blue grosbeaks, dickcissels, eastern meadowlarks, several sparrows, including, vesper sparrow, lark sparrow, savannah sparrow, grasshopper sparrow, and Le Conte’s sparrow.
Peak rainfall periods occur in May and June from thunderstorms and in September and October from tropical systems. Rainfall events may be high (3 to 5 inches per event) and intense. Because of the flat topography of this site, erosion is minimal.
The site may be used for hunting, camping, hiking, horseback riding, or off-road vehicle use.
Inventory data references
Vegetative data for this site was obtained from existing Range Site Descriptions and SCS-417 data. SCS-417’s were available for this site in five different counties. Extensive field work was done on-site to catalog the plant community. Several range-trained personnel with state and federal agencies and in private enterprise were consulted on the plant communities as well. Personal contact with ranchers and foreman was utilized to ascertain the use of plants by both cattle and wildlife.
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Mike Stellbauer, Zone RMS, NRCS, Bryan, Texas
David Kraft, 9/20/2019
Rangeland health reference sheet
Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health is a qualitative assessment protocol used to determine ecosystem condition based on benchmark characteristics described in the Reference Sheet. A suite of 17 (or more) indicators are typically considered in an assessment. The ecological site(s) representative of an assessment location must be known prior to applying the protocol and must be verified based on soils and climate. Current plant community cannot be used to identify the ecological site.
|Contact for lead author|
|Composition (Indicators 10 and 12) based on||Annual Production|
Number and extent of rills:
Presence of water flow patterns:
Number and height of erosional pedestals or terracettes:
Bare ground from Ecological Site Description or other studies (rock, litter, lichen, moss, plant canopy are not bare ground):
Number of gullies and erosion associated with gullies:
Extent of wind scoured, blowouts and/or depositional areas:
Amount of litter movement (describe size and distance expected to travel):
Soil surface (top few mm) resistance to erosion (stability values are averages - most sites will show a range of values):
Soil surface structure and SOM content (include type of structure and A-horizon color and thickness):
Effect of community phase composition (relative proportion of different functional groups) and spatial distribution on infiltration and runoff:
Presence and thickness of compaction layer (usually none; describe soil profile features which may be mistaken for compaction on this site):
Functional/Structural Groups (list in order of descending dominance by above-ground annual-production or live foliar cover using symbols: >>, >, = to indicate much greater than, greater than, and equal to):
Amount of plant mortality and decadence (include which functional groups are expected to show mortality or decadence):
Average percent litter cover (%) and depth ( in):
Expected annual annual-production (this is TOTAL above-ground annual-production, not just forage annual-production):
Potential invasive (including noxious) species (native and non-native). List species which BOTH characterize degraded states and have the potential to become a dominant or co-dominant species on the ecological site if their future establishment and growth is not actively controlled by management interventions. Species that become dominant for only one to several years (e.g., short-term response to drought or wildfire) are not invasive plants. Note that unlike other indicators, we are describing what is NOT expected in the reference state for the ecological site:
Perennial plant reproductive capability:
The Ecosystem Dynamics Interpretive Tool is an information system framework developed by the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and New Mexico State University.
Click on box and path labels to scroll to the respective text.