Thanks for your interest in sharing your experiences with Texas Nature Challenge.
The Texas Capitol, completed in 1888, is surrounded by approximately 22 acres of land that contain examples of native Texas trees as well as non-native species and several monuments and historical markers. The Capitol Grounds function as a public park in the heart of downtown Austin.
Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-305-8400 for help with this challenge.
Grades: Any Age
Admission and/or Parking
Parking is available in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage at 1201 San Jacinto located between Trinity and San Jacinto Streets at 12th and 13th streets. Parking is free for the first two hours and $1.00 for each half hour thereafter (maximum daily charge: $8.00); accessible parking is available with accessible routes to the Capitol. Metered spaces are available throughout the complex. Rates are subject to change during special events on weekends.
The Capitol Visitors Center is open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and Sunday from noon to 5:00 P.M.
Challenge appropriate for groups?
Availability of Challenge
Available year around
Participants will follow the directions below or on the Capitol Grounds Challenge document in order to interact with and learn about the Capitol Grounds. Links to a double-sided and a single-sided version of the Capitol Grounds Challenge are provided at the end of the section "Steps in the Challenge." Individuals may print out the version that is most useful for them and bring it with them to the Capitol Grounds at any time. Copies of the document are available at the Capitol Visitors Center (CVC), located on the southeast corner of the Capitol Grounds, during hours of operation.
A map of the grounds is provided as the first image. Start at the Capitol Visitors Center. Find the historical marker at the bottom of the hill.
When was this building completed? What agency originally used this building?
Walk north on the sidewalk until the walkway splits. Find the tree with the number 8 located to the west of the sidewalk.
This tree is a post oak. In the wild, the post oak's crown of gnarled, twisted branches usually has dead branches that stay attached for many years. Describe the appearance of this oak:
Find the tree with the number 9 located across the sidewalk directly to the north. This tree is a cedar elm
This tree can grow in a variety of soils and is widely planted as a street and shade tree. Touch the leaves. How do they feel?
Look at the area north of the cedar elm. It once looked very different. (See attached image)
To learn more, follow the sidewalk that heads diagonally toward the Capitol and find the historical marker titled "Grotto and Lagoon."
Find the tree with the number 3 located next to the "Grotto and Lagoon" marker. This tree is a bald cypress.
The bald cypress is known for growing along river beds and in swamps where it can develop peculiar cone-like structures off of the roots known as “knees.” Describe the color and texture of the tree trunk:
Continue to walk towards the Capitol stopping before you reach the fountain. Find the tree with the number 2 located to the east of the sidewalk. This tree is a black walnut.
Walnut is a popular material for use in building construction and furniture. The legislators' desks in the Senate and the judges' bench in the Supreme Courtroom are made of walnut.
Thirsty? Have a drink at the East Drinking Fountain.
What do you have to do to get water from this fountain?
Walk to the front steps of the Capitol then face south toward downtown. This promenade is known as the Great Walk. To learn more, find the historical marker titled "The Great Walk." It is located near the "Heroes of the Alamo" monument on the east side of the promenade.
Walk the Great Walk. Describe the items you see. Why do you think it's designed this way? How does this space make you feel about the Capitol?
Cross the street from the Volunteer Firemen monument to the sidewalk closest to the fence on the west section of the grounds. Walk on the sidewalk toward the west. Find the tree with the number 25 to the north of the sidewalk. This tree is a Crape Myrtle.
In 1997, the Texas legislature declared the Crape Myrtle the state shrub. Describe the flowers, if any. What colors are on this tree?
Continue walking west on the sidewalk to the other end of the grounds. Find the tree with the number 20 located by the stairs near the fence. This tree is a Texas redbud.
The Texas redbud has small, edible, pink flowers that cover the branches in the spring before the heart-shaped leaves appear. After the leaves turn bright yellow in the fall and are lost, the fruit, a two or three inch pod, is left hanging on the branches. In what seasonal period is the tree? Smell the flowers, leaves, and/or fruit. How would you describe the smells of this tree?
A fence marks the boundary of the Capitol Grounds.
Draw a portion of the fence. Or describe its features.
Walk to the east toward the Great Walk. Find the tree with the number 21. This tree is a pecan.
The pecan is the state tree . It is known for its fruit, which can be eaten raw or cooked. Do you eat pecans? If so, what are your favorite pecan dishes?
Continue to walk to the east. Find the tree with the number 22. This tree is a sycamore.
Sycamore trees are common in east Texas and can reach a height of 170 feet with a diameter of 11 feet. Describe the bark and fruit:
Walk north to the Cowboy Monument.
When was this monument placed on the Capitol Grounds? To whom is the monument dedicated?
Walk to the Capitol. The exterior of the building is made of "sunset red" granite quarried from Marble Falls, Texas.
Touch the Capitol's exterior. How does it feel?
Walk around the Capitol building. Architect Elijah Myers designed the building in a Renaissance Revival style, based on the architecture of 15th-century Italy and characterized by classical orders, round arches and symmetrical composition.
Describe the Capitol. What features do you find most interesting?
To print a single-sided version of the Capitol Grounds Challenge, download the attached pdf.
To print a double-sided version of the Capitol Grounds Challenge, download the attached pdf.
Participants who complete the activity during the CVC's hours of operation can receive a stamp on their Capitol Grounds Challenge documentfrom a Gallery Assistant at the information desk inside the CVC.