Texas Snowbells (Styrax platanifolius subsp. texanus)

Photograph of the Texas Snowbells


Texas Status
U.S. Status
Endangered, Listed 10/12/1984
Texas snowbells is a shrub or small tree about 5 to 15 feet tall. The big, round leaves are shiny and green on top but white and fuzzy underneath. The contrasting colors on the leaves make the plant appear to shimmer when the wind blows. The flowers are clustered at the end of the branch and hang upside down. These blooms look like small white bells, thus the name snowbells.
Life History
Texas snowbells is a deciduous tree. Flower buds develop in March and open during the third and fourth weeks of April. Flowering peaks during the last week in April. Fruit capsules, containing one or sometimes up to 3 seeds, swell in late July and early August, and split open in late August through September, dropping the shiny brown, pea-sized seeds.Texas snowbells is often found growing with Texas ash, sycamore, little walnut, Mexican silktassel, Lacey oak, Texas oak, Mexican-buckeye, Texas mountain laurel, Texas persimmon, guajillo, and Ashe juniper.

This beautiful shrub has a limited range and low population numbers. It is readily eaten by livestock, exotic ungulates, and deer. Over-browsing by these animals is a serious threat to its survival. Young seedlings are often eaten by browsing animals or insects. When Texas snowbells is protected from browsing animals, it will grow on relatively level sites with deeper soils. It is quite possible that cliffsides are not necessarily preferred habitat, but simply represent areas free from browsing pressure.

Texas snowbells has been introduced at two places. Seeds were collected from known populations and grown at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. The seedlings were transplanted back into the wild, and cages built around them to prevent damage by browsing animals. Today, although cages are still needed to protect the plants, they are several feet tall and producing flowers.
Texas snowbells grows out of crevices on steep limestone bluffs or cliff faces along streams and dry creek beds. It can also grow in the dry gravels of streambeds or on thin soils overlying limestone ledges.
Today, we know of about 10 populations in Edwards, Real, and Val Verde counties.
Texas snowbells was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October 1984. Landowners can help conservation efforts by learning more about this plant and its habitat, and by controlling browsing pressure by domestic and wild ungulates. Remember that the key identifying features include white bell-like flowers and large, round leaves that are shiny green on top and white, fuzzy underneath.

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