San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site protects coastal prairie, forests and marshlands. However, the land has changed from the days of the Texas Revolution.
Topography and historical accounts suggest mature coastal prairie once dominated here, with freshwater to saltwater marshes along Santa Anna’s Bayou next to the river. Groups of trees (mostly live oak) dotted the site then, and still do today.
Early farming, grazing and site development led to the loss of native prairies. Most of the hardwood trees are gone, used for construction or fuel. Groundwater pumping after World War II led to subsidence, or a lowering of the ground. In its early days as a park, caretakers installed well-manicured lawns and planted a variety of trees. Invasive Chinese tallow spread across the site.
First, this is one of the few places close to Houston where you can see these native habitats and wildlife.
Second, the landscape and topography of this site were deciding factors in the outcome of the battle. A grove of hardwood trees screened Houston’s camp. A large open area filled with waist-high grass flowed between the two armies’ campsites. Tall grass, a low ridge and trees hid the approach of the Texan rebels, and allowed them to surprise the larger force. And the Mexican soldiers had nowhere to run but into the marsh behind them.
Houston used the natural landscape in planning his attack. The hardwood forests, bayous, marshes and rivers combined to create a deadly trap for the Mexican army. Returning the site to its 1836 condition allows us to more accurately tell the story of the battle.
AnimalsRestoration of the marsh has led to a rebound in wildlife. The marshes are home to a broad variety of plants and animals, both on land and in water. Marshes play a role in the life cycle of most commercial seafood species. Many shorebirds, wading birds, and resident and migratory waterfowl also depend on the marshes.
Find more information on the animals of San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site:
- Birds of San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site
- Alligator Safety
- Texas Wildlife Fact Sheets
- Butterflies and Moths of Harris County
Three distinct ecosystems exist in the park.
- Coastal prairie is made up of little bluestem, big bluestem, Indiangrass and switchgrass. Less than 1% of the original coastal prairie remains.
- Plants in the tidal marsh, such as smooth cordgrass, can tolerate salt water. Tidal marshes help absorb pollutants and moderate flooding.
- Bottomland forest grows along coastal rivers (in this case, the San Jacinto) from seeds deposited by floods. Most hardwoods have been cut down, however one small remnant forest remains at the east end of the park.
Find more information on the plants of San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site:
- Marsh Trail Guide: Habitats of the Upper Texas Coast
- To look up an unknown plant, try Wildflower Center Native Plant Database