I used to live in Dallas during elementary school, went to Denison High School, Denton for University and degree in Geography. All these locations in north central Texas. I also lived in several other places in Texas years later - Galveston and Houston. So I am acquainted with Texas. I left 22 years ago to live in Oregon.
April, 2014 I flew to Dallas to attend the wedding of one of my nephews. The flight from Portland was uneventful tho I always enjoy looking out the window at the landscape below. We passed over untold fracking pads, just after dark with lightning flashes maybe 100 miles off to the east, far beyond the distant lights of downtown Dallas just as we were coming in for a landing.
My nephew and soon to be niece in law picked me up at baggage claim. As we drove out to the main road leaving the immense DFW Regional Airport, I noticed a light rail line now serves the airport. Wish I knew. My nephew told me one could take the train to within a mile of where he lives in Carrollton, a suburb of Dallas.
The Dallas area had more rail and trolleys 80 years ago than now. When our family lived in Dallas in the early 60's, we could still take the train north to visit grandparents in Nebraska. In the 30's there were interurban rail lines north to Sherman and south to Corsicana. Long gone.
There are a lot of freeways in Dallas. A couple websites boast Dallas has more freeways miles per capita than any city in the country with agressive plans for more. I don't know if that is true but there are a lot of freeways in Dallas.
The economic growth in Dallas - more buildings, more highways, more people, more buying and selling over the past 50 years is amazing. Many cities in the South and West have their own versions of this kind of development.
Tangents to the story.
So my nephew and niece in law picked me up at the airport and we took freeways to where they live about 10 miles from the airport. They live in a suburban area. Somewhat large houses, maybe 3000 ft sq but nothing unusual. The most elevated places for miles are either buildings or the top level of freeway interchanges. Water tanks and pylon supported powerlines are visible in the hazy distance from the occasional rise in the natural landscape.
It was great to see my nephew and niece in law.
In the morning, I was out exploring the neighborhood on foot. Immediately I heard a mocking bird nearby, hidden in a small tree. One of my favorites birds. My intention for the walk was to see about edible landscaping and to find any palm trees.
As a kid, living only ten miles away, I often rode my bike to school. Pretty good for a 10 year old, I rode at least 3 miles and various streets and collectors, a few traffic lights from Kramer Elementary School. I always liked to see exotic plants. So when I rode to school, I was always meandering to find the occasional banana tree or windmill palm tree. Those same years, I snuck onto the property of a failed swimming pool business, dug up a banana tree and small palm from the overgrown lot and transplanted to our four bedroom brick suburban home on Linden Lane.
Dallas can be surprisingly cold in winter for being at about 32 degrees north latitude. There were a few banana trees and maybe 3 or 4 windmill palms on the way to school. Windmill palms are one of the hardiest varieties. For some reason, I really like seeing these plants and I have several banana trees and a couple windmill palms here in Eugene.
So these exotic plants were infrequent, very occasional. Update to my last trip to Dallas 7 years ago, and there were a lot more palm trees. Not to say its like Miami, but compared to when I was a kid, I was amazed. My nephew lived in an apartment complex and the pool had several palms, most of them less cold hardy than the windmills. Driving around the area, I saw dozens of palm trees. Not all over the place but still, I was really surprised.
After the morning walk, I borrowed my nephew's bike for greater range. Its not like there were a lot of palms but compared to 50 years ago when I was a kid, its a striking difference. I never saw a palm like this on my way to school. Someone planted some Washingtonian Palms at the fairgrounds near downtown when I was a kid, they were on south facing walls and maybe a couple were 30 feet high, thanks to micro habitats.
These palms were in back and front yards. I saw this palm.
There were other palms here and there on my bike ride. Some were palmettos, hardier than this one but still, not part of what I saw on my bike rides to school as a kid. I also saw more and larger oleanders, another plant preferring a warmer climate. So the take away is, there are more warmer climate plants in the Dallas area than when I was a kid.
I lived in Galveston, on the coast 60 miles south east of Houston. On a long and low barrier island, Galveston has also seen some botanic changes. When I lived there, the tallest Norfolk Island Pine was maybe 15 feet high. A severe freeze hit Galveston several years ago damaging the semi tropical pines [they are not actually a pine] but a google virtual cruise down almost any street in Galveston will find Norfolk Pines, if somewhat in recovery; 30, 40, even 50 feet high. Climate change is happening.
On the bike ride, I also looked for edible landscaping. That was hard to come by - few fig trees - couple peach trees, a few pomegranites. No vegetables out front out of hundreds of houses on this odd botanical safari. But going down one street, I caught a glimpse that made for a double take. I turned the bike around and had a good look at the house,,,,
Certainly, there were some gardens behind the 8 foot fences here and there. My niece has a garden. But not much food growing in this suburban neighborhood. Deed restrictions? Disinterest? There is a long growing season in Dallas. Well over 250 days between frosts. My guess is people are just not thinking about growing food.
Early afternoon, my brother came for me and we drove north from Dallas. He lives in Wichita Falls, 100 miles to the northwest. We stayed a night at his place in town but the real destination was his 180 acres an hour from the "The Falls."
My brother has a sizable country property, over 150 acres, that he is in the process of turning into a refuge when the economic system comes unglued. My brother is something of a survivalist. He comes to his conclusions about the "system" somewhat differently from me but there is a good deal of overlap.