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Preface This book is the result of a lifetime spent in Big Thicket country and of close observation and appreciation of its plant and animal life. It is written in a non-technical style for the benefit of the many nonprofessional persons interested in the general nature of the Big Thicket. The description of plant associations given in this work is based on the virgin condition and not as conditions are now. This is important so that people who plan to restore the natural habitat will have an authentic guideline. I have used the botanical nomenclature of Correll and Johnston’s 1970 work, Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (see References). Some plant names have been changed, so the serious botanist will want to consult more recent literature if there is a conflict. In 1936, some interested persons led by R. E. Jackson created the East Texas Big Thicket Association for the purpose of setting aside some of the area known as the Big Thicket, but for various reasons the effort failed. In 1964, a Saratoga naturalist, Lance Rosier, revived the Big Thicket Association and a fresh effort was launched to save some of the remains. I became a member and began writing a weekly column called “The Big Thicket—Past, Present and Future” in the local newspaper, The Pine Needle. A search for information turned up a plethora of amazing claims, such as, “If it grows between the Mississippi River and the Edwards Plateau, it can be found in the Big Thicket.” Ocelots and monkeys were even reported as residents. The Big Thicket was called a “Biological Crossroads,” yet I could find no verification, published or unpublished, for any of these claims. Abundant literature was available on the legends, people, and history of the Big Thicket (see Abernethy in the References, for instance), but it would not be sufficient to take a scientist or a senator to vii the Kaiser Burnout, which is now a pine plantation, and recount the Civil War legend; or to take them to the old Hooks Bear Camp site and tell of the wildlife of bygone days. The response would probably have been, “So what! There were probably dinosaurs here once,” or, “What kind of National Park would a pine plantation make?” It appeared to me that if we were to save any of the Big Thicket, we would have to produce evidence based on the “here” and “now” that there is something here worth saving. Some of the questions to which I sought answers were as follows : Is the Big Thicket unique? Is it really a biological crossroads? Why? Is it disappearing at the rate of fifty acres a day, as some claim? Or, as the opponents of preservation claim, is it bigger and better than ever? In light of these questions, I began to take a long, close, unemotional look at the Big Thicket. Actually, my emotions were involved. I had spent a happy childhood along the streams and forests of Tyler County. On Sunday afternoons, my mother, Retha Ellis, took us for walks to pick wildflowers among the towering virgin pines. She gave names to them and pointed out those her mother had used to make medicines and dyes for her homespun cloth. I followed my father, Herbert Ellis, an avid hunter and fisherman, into the deep forests and along the streams and he would identify the trees. A small branch of Turkey Creek was only a few hundred yards from our home. During my lifetime, I have watched all these beautiful scenes of my childhood made ugly and disappear. But neither the agony of watching my homeland disintegrate nor the memory of its past glory could be counted as reasons to create a national preserve to anyone but myself. In my quest for the truth, and evidence of that truth, I went back to school at Lamar University, enrolling in all the classes that would help me understand and interpret this land. Dr. Donovan Correll, of the Texas Research Foundation, was compiling the Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas and enlisted my help collecting specimens in my area and, in the process, taught plant taxonomy and herbarium management to me. I had been listing plants with location and blooming dates for four years, but realized my list was worthless without voucher specimens, so, with the encouragement of Dr. viii Preface Richard Harrel, as an undergraduate problem at Lamar, I organized a herbarium and began to systematically botanize, preserve...


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