Discover the Thorn Forest


Quinta Mazatlán in McAllen has gone through many changes throughout its existence.  The Matthews family built the adobe home in the middle of a forest in the 1930s. In the 1960s, the Schultz family enhanced the home and gardens while protecting the forest for wildlife. The next and current  “family,” the City of McAllen, expanded the urban sanctuary and brought partners together to support education, ecotourism, and the environment for the health of all.

The archway to the Thorn Forest offers a visual of what the estate grounds looked like previous to 1935. Many guests have passed through the doorway to the Thorn Forest, that was opened to the public in 2006 by the City of McAllen. Countless families and nature lovers have passed through on their way to explore the Thorn Forest looking for birds and butterflies.

A variety of trees, shrubs, and plants make up the Thorn Forest at Quinta Mazatlán. The assortment of vegetation attracts a variety of birds and butterflies to the estate. The gatekeepers of the estate are none other than the plain chachalacas, which are bountiful.  Buff-bellied hummingbirds entertain you with their aerial acrobatics. Green jays chatter to you from their condo homes in the forest. There are many more birds to see, including our migratory birds that make Quinta Mazatlán their hotel to regenerate their energy before continuing south.

Luckily, some of these migratory birds call the estate their winter haven. Butterflies are also bountiful within the Thorn Forest.  Monarchs, large orange sulphur, giant swallowtail, red-bordered pixie, and many other types of butterflies flutter around the Thorn Forest, searching for flowering plants to get a meal.

Many native trees and shrubs within the Thorn Forest provide shelter and food for the forest animals. Granjeno, fiddlewood, kidneywood, and guayacan provide berries or seeds as a meal.  Native plants that provide nectar to the animals are the Turk’s cap, Scarlet sage, and Texas lantana. Prickly pear, tasajillo, and Night-blooming cereus, though they are cactus, provide nectar, food, and shelter for many animals.

Though many trails meander around the estate, they all lead back to the historical mansion of Quinta Mazatlán. Quinta Mazatlán is an urban sanctuary working to enrich community members’ lives by providing information about birds, plants, and environmental stewardship in South Texas.

Visit Quinta Mazatlán this new year and check out its many programs, including the Thursday night speaker series and special seasonal trails and festivals. Quinta Mazatlán is open Tuesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays till dark. Follow Quinta Mazatlán on social media to stay in the loop on what’s happening in the Thorn Forest.

Colleen Curran Hook