Endemic to Texas’ Edwards Plateau, the Texas snowbell is a deciduous shrub growing as large as 18 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Its heart shaped leaves are green on top and white below. In April, its lovely white flowers bloom, each blossom setting a fruit. Growing in partial sun, the shrub is usually found on limestone cliffs and ledges above streams, often among sycamores, little walnuts, Texas oaks, lacey oaks and Ashe junipers.
When the species was listed as federally endangered in 1984, only 39 individuals were known to exist. By 2004, there were 10 known populations. The largest and healthiest population is protected on the Conservancy’s Dolan Falls Preserve. However, the species remains critically imperiled, primarily because the plant is irresistible to deer, wild goats, non-native sheep and other grazers. It is thought this intense grazing pressure has displaced the shrub from its historic primary habitat and the steep areas in which it is currently found provide refuges from hungry ungulates.
This habitat displacement is problematic because most of the seeds born by mature plants drop into the streams below, rather than finding purchase in viable soil.