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Exploring North Texas Soils: Identification, Trees, and Locations

North Texas is home to many soil types, each with unique characteristics that influence the types of vegetation that thrive in the region. Understanding these soil types can help you understand the highest and best use for your property, which trees will grow, and how to best enhance your property’s value over time. In this post, we'll explore four primary soil types found in North Texas: clay, sandy, loam, and silty soils. We'll discuss how to identify them, the types of trees that grow best in each, and their geographical locations.


  1. Clay Soils

Clay soils, also known as "Blackland Prairie" soils, are characterized by their fine texture and high clay content. When dry, they are hard and can form large cracks. When wet, they become sticky and plastic-like, making them challenging to work with or drive across. This type of soil is good for farming and hard on foundations because it tends to expand when wet and shrink when dry.

From a property we sold with blackland soil. Notice all of the mesquite trees! 
From a property we sold with blackland soil. Notice all of the mesquite trees! 

Trees that Thrive:

  • Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum): Known for its adaptability, the bald cypress grows well in clay soils, especially in areas that experience seasonal flooding.

  • Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa): This Texas native oak species is tolerant of the dense, compact nature of clay soils.

  • Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa): Known (and hated) for its hardiness, the mesquite tree thrives in the dense, nutrient-rich blackland soils of North Texas. It is highly tolerant of drought conditions, making it well-suited to the region's arid climate. We have found that trimming a mesquite tree can be a good way to accelerate it’s demise. The other, more immediate way, is to spray it with a combination of Remedy and Reclaim in the fall as the trees are starting to pull nutrients in for the winter. 

Geographical Locations:

Clay soils are prevalent in the central and eastern parts of North Texas, particularly in the Blackland Prairie region, which stretches from the Red River to south of San Antonio.


2. Sandy Soils

Sandy soils have a coarse texture with large particles that can be seen and felt. They drain quickly and do not retain water well, often requiring more frequent irrigation to maintain soil moisture. These soils are typically light in color and can be easily worked by hand. 


From a property we sold with sandy soils. Notice the "prettier” trees on the edges and the hay field in the middle
From a property we sold with sandy soils. Notice the "prettier” trees on the edges and the hay field in the middle

Trees that Thrive:

  • Pecan (Carya illinoinensis): This native tree prefers the well-drained conditions of sandy soils.

  • Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda): This rapid-growing Texas native tree thrives in sandy soils but is susceptible to ice damage and bark beetles.

  • Post Oak (Quercus stellata): A Texas native, the post oak is well-adapted to sandy soils. It is a slow-growing but sturdy tree, known for its drought tolerance.

Geographical Locations:

Sandy soils are commonly found in the eastern parts of North Texas or close to creeks/rivers. 


3. Loam Soils

Loam soils are a balanced mixture of sand, silt, and clay. They are considered ideal for most gardening and agricultural purposes due to their good drainage and moisture retention properties. Loam soils feel smooth and crumbly to the touch.


From a property we sold with loam soils. Notice the oak trees and the high quality native pasture
From a property we sold with loam soils. Notice the oak trees and the high quality native pasture

Trees that Thrive:

  • Red Maple (Acer rubrum): Preferring moist, well-drained loam soils, the red maple is a popular choice for landscapes.

  • Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora): This evergreen tree thrives in the fertile, well-drained conditions provided by loam soils. This is my personal favorite, but it is rarely seen on ranch properties. 

  • White Oak (Quercus alba): Known for its strength and beauty, the white oak grows well in loam soils.

Geographical Locations:

Loam soils are found throughout North Texas, often in areas with different soil types. They are common in residential areas where soil amendments have been made to improve fertility.


4. Silty Soils

Silty soils have a higher proportion of silt and can be identified by their smooth, flour-like texture. They are fertile and retain moisture well but can become compacted easily, which may impede root growth. Silty soils can also be a challenge for ranchers because they are highly erodable. 


From a property we sold with river- frontage. Notice the light color soil on the banks and edges of the river
From a property we sold with river- frontage. Notice the light color soil on the banks and edges of the river

Trees that Thrive:

  • River Birch (Betula nigra): This tree prefers moist, silty soils and is often found along riverbanks and floodplains.

  • Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis): Thriving in wet, silty soils, the sycamore is a large, fast-growing tree.

  • American Elm (Ulmus americana): This adaptable tree grows well in the fertile, moisture-retentive silty soils.

Geographical Locations:

Silty soils are commonly found in river valleys and floodplains across North Texas, where sediment deposits from flowing water create rich, fertile grounds.


So what is the best type of soil? It depends on your vision for the property. Clay soils are more fertile and better for farming, but cause problems in the summer for ranchers because the soil cracking can injure cattle. Sandy or loam soils are better for ranchers because it is easier for grass to grow. Sandy or loam soils also encourage the growth of “prettier” trees and are more attractive for residential development.

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