In the late 1800’s, the ancestors of Martha, David, and Bagby Lennox purchased 353 acres north of Clarksville, Red River County, Texas. Whether the early members of the Lennox family were pioneer environmentalists or just enjoyed picnicking on their land, this acreage was never completely harvested. Only dead trees were allowed to be cleared. The result is a treasure – one of the most pristine, old-growth forests in the state. It was donated by the Lennox family and their foundation to The Nature Conservancy and is available for public enjoyment.
Thanks to its location on the 613,000 acre Pecan Bayou, the largest undammed watershed in Northeast Texas, Lennox Woods has sufficient water resources to support its 51 tree species, 15 types of vines, 93 wildflower species, 39 species of grasses and sedeges, 9 of shrubs and 10 of moss and fern. Birds such as the pileated woodpecker and various warblers travel through. The rare and very shy timber rattlesnake hides in the woods’ nooks and crannies
Botanists are easily distracted here. Many come just to see the shortleaf pine trees, considered the gold standard for the state, with some being over 100 years old. The far more common loblolly pine is grown on nearby tree plantations and likes to invade the Lennox Woods. Because of two recent, severe ice storms, much of the canopy of the woods was lost, allowing the loblolly an entry point. Recently, the Conservancy used “prescribed burning” to muscle out the loblolly trees who don’t survive even a low temperature fire. Natural, shortleaf pine are unaffected by the elevated temperature and are returning in mass.
You don’t have to be able to recognize a Lady Slipper Orchid or a white oak to enjoy the woods. The Martha Lennox Memorial Nature Trail is a mile and a half loop that takes you under trees and over logs and from low, wetlands to highlands. This is actually only a change of 30 feet in elevation but it’s enough to shake up the plant life. As Nature Conservancy employee Jim Edson noted on a recent tour, “The soil’s the thing.” The soil dictates what plants it will support which tells you what animals will live there. Local Master Naturalists have provided markers naming various plants and trees. For visual learners, there’s even a picture of the identified plant.
Keep your eyes alert for Pimple Mounds, raised swells along the trail. Some have surmised these to be former Native American encampments. But the real story comes from the end of the Ice Age when the desert plains arrived, shrub communities developed, thickets created the mounds and eventually, the forests returned. The 5000 year old mounds are a compact history of soil development.
As we stood on the trail looking at an opened forest with sunlight streaming in, Jim Eidson smiled in great satisfaction. “We’re at the beginning of a cycle”, he informed us. If the Conservancy’s efforts are successful, more grasses and wildflowers will grow in the lit woods among more widely spaced native trees. The Lennox family would still be right at home here as would the early settlers. It’s certainly worth the drive to peak at our state’s forest past.
Directions: The Lennox Woods is not the easiest to find. Go North of Clarksville on Highway 37 to FM 2118. Take a left on FM 2118 and travel west for 1.6 miles. On your left is a sign for Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church. Turn left on this road and go approximately 1 mile. The sign for the Lennox Woods will be on your left and a small amount of parking is available.
Nature Conservancy site on Lennox Woods http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/texas/preserves/art25159.html