Look for our story on “Lajitas Wild (and Mild)” in the May issue! A road trip to this West Texas outpost should include a stop at the Warnock Visitor Center. Here’s more on Big Bend botanical legend Barton H. Warnock.
By E. Dan Klepper
Texas’ own botanical legend, Dr. Barton H. Warnock, considered a premiere authority on the flora of the Trans-Pecos and one of the country’s distinguished botanists, created a lively and compelling legacy out of the deserts and mountains of the West Texas landscape.
Warnock was born in Christoval, Texas, in July of 1911 and grew up in Fort Stockton. He graduated from Sul Ross State University at Alpine in 1937 and earned a master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1939. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, Warnock returned to Alpine and in 1946, joined the faculty at Sul Ross. The following year he was named biology department chair. Over the next 50 years, Warnock practiced the art of field botany with enthusiasm and persistence. Even after retirement, Warnock continued to collect and catalog Trans-Pecos specimens, pursuing a botanist’s life until his death at 87.
Along the way, he amassed an archive of plants that has
achieved fundamental status in representing the northern Chihuahuan Desert
region. Preserved in several superb herbariums, the Warnock collections have
provided botanists with a thorough understanding of the plant communities
thriving across the Texas Trans-Pecos. Warnock was, in fact, more than just a
collector. He was devoted to describing the desert botany, collecting more than
26,000 specimens throughout West Texas with a number of undescribed species
among them. He co-authored more than 20 publications, including the seminal
“Wildflowers of the Big Bend Country, Texas,” and has had more than a dozen new
species of plants named for him including Warnock’s fishhook cactus
(Echinomastus warnockii), Warnock’s snakewood (Condalia warnockii), Warnock’s
rockdaisy (Perityle warnockii), and Warnock’s water-willow (Justicia
See full article in the May 2012 issue.
From the June 2012 issue.