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U.S. Forest Service

Southern Region Viewing Area


Mesic ravines in Matlock Hills. Mesic ravines in Matlock Hills, Sabine National Forest. Photo by Thomas Philipps.

Cypripedium kentuckiense Cypripedium kentuckiense is found within Matlock Hills. Photo by Thomas Philipps.

Indian pinks Indian pinks are found occasionally within Matlock Hills. Photo by Thomas Philipps.

Matlock Hills

Forest: National Forests and Grasslands in Texas

District: Sabine National Forest

Description: Matlock Hills contains high quality examples of several distinct natural communities: mesic ravine forest, sandhill woodland, acid seeps on forested valley slopes, and acid spring branches. The rich assemblage of forest forbs coupled with the high quality hardwood forest are the primary protection focus at Matlock Hills.

White oak (Quercus alba), southern red oak (Quercus falcata), white ash (Fraxinus americana), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), and bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis), are dominant in the overstory of these rich mesic forest. Hophornbeam (Ostrya virginiana) and chalk maple (Acer rubrum) are characteristic in the understory. Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), pawpaw (Asimina triloba), and bigleaf snowbells (Styrax grandifolia) are common in the shrub layer. American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is more prevalent in the ravine bottoms. Xeric hardwoods, primarily due to past timber cutting practices, presently dominate Sandy ridgetops and slopes above the mesic forest. Originally, these sandy ridgetops were at least in part dominated by longleaf pine (Pinus palustris). There is a rich assemblage of endemic sandhill forbs in sandy openings in these woodlands.

The forested seeps at Matlock Hills contain more deciduous woody species in the understory and shrub layer in contrast to the broadleaf evergreen-forested seeps typical of the longleaf region. Gallberry holly (Ilex coriacea) and swamp redbay (Persea palustris) are noticeable absent from the seep forest. At Matlock Hills these species are largely replaced by alder (Alnus serrulata) and Arkansas blueberry (Vaccinium fuscatum). Whorled pogonia (Isotria verticillata), a rare orchid in east Texas, occurs on the slopes just above the forested seeps.

Wildflower Viewing: These mesic forests support an exceptional assemblage of northern and eastern forest flora disjunct to southeastern Texas. Prevernal and vernal herbaceous plants isolated in deeply shaded ravines support lush spring woodland wildflower displays in a region depauperate in this floristic element. More than 40 forest forbs have been catalogued at Matlock Hills. Three healthy colonies of Cypripedium kentuckiense, southern lady's-slipper with a total of at least 42 stems, occur on the forested valley slopes and represent one of the largest remaining viable populations in Texas. In some mesic microhabitats, toothwort (Dentaria laciniata), yellow dogtooth violet (Erythronium rostratum), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), and perfoliate bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata) carpet the forest floor. Several plants which are uncommon in southeast Texas are also present: Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), southern twayblade orchid (Listera australis), blue-stem goldenrod (Solidago caesia), lopseed (Phryma leptostachya), and whorled pogonia (Isotria verticillata), a rare orchid in east Texas, occurs on the slopes just above the forested seeps.

The high quality plant communities and species diversity make this one of the most outstanding sites in the National Forests in Texas and of regional ecological significance.

Safety First: Be watchful for things that can bite you, sting you, or give you a rash. There are several species of poisonous snakes in the area, although they are not common, as well as the possibilities for tick and mosquito bites. Make sure you wear protective clothing and use repellent whenever possible. There are also several different species of poisonous plants occurring here, including poison ivy and poison sumac. Learn how to identify these plants and DON’T TOUCH! If you do come into contact with these plants make sure to wash the area as soon as possible thoroughly. Be watchful for stump holes on the ground below you and hanging limbs from trees above you. A nice day in the woods can be very enjoyable as long as we keep these hazards in mind and always remember “Safety First”.

Directions: Along a tributary of Colorow Creek, ca 0.3 miles north of FS Rd. 108 and 2 miles east of Black Ankle; ca 5 air miles northwest of Geneva. Compartment 66 within the Sabine National Forest.

Ownership and Management: USDA Forest Service, National Forests and Grasslands in Texas, Sabine National Forest.

Closest Town: San Augustine, Texas.