Cool spring temperatures have kept many wildflowers in check, but a spectacular display of bluebonnets and other native plants has begun as temperatures climb, said a University of Texas at Austin expert at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
“It’s green, it’s lush and we’ve just been waiting for things to pop,” said Dr. Damon Waitt, the center’s senior botanist. “There will be beautiful displays of wildflowers in upcoming weeks – sometimes thousands in one place – based on what we’re seeing throughout Texas.”
If warmer weather continues, Waitt and other native plant experts suggest wildflowers may be showiest in Central Texas by mid-April. Wildflowers have already started blooming in Austin and in regions of South Texas that have had warmer weather, while a later peak is expected in cooler areas such as the Davis Mountains of West Texas and up north, where bluebonnets just started opening up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
In Central Texas sightings so far have included: stands of bluebonnet, Indian paintbrush, coreopsis and Indian blanket along the Llano River northwest of Austin; stands of Mexican buckeye south of Blanco along part of RR 32; of bluebonnet and Indian paintbrush along FM 20 between Lockhart and Fentress; and just south of Fentress on FM 20, wildflowers sighted include large buttercup and Texas baby blue eyes.
Stands of bluebonnets have been sighted on FM 306 east of Canyon City. And along Highway 281 between Pleasanton and Three Rivers, phacelia, white prickly poppy and other wildflowers are blooming.
Indian paintbrush has begun to open up along FM 50 near Independence, as well as bluebonnets starting to flower in Old Baylor Park in Independence. And farther east near Cleveland at The Little Thicket Nature Sanctuary, slender trillium, windflower and a dozen other flowering native plants have become showy in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, California poppy that is native to West Texas is putting on a good show around the Franklin Mountains north of El Paso. South of Eagle Pass, look for masses of wildflowers on the way to Carrizo Springs and then along I-83 toward Laredo. Besides bluebonnets, white and red prickly poppy, Spanish dagger, Indian paintbrush, and blackbrush acacia are among the offerings. The best Big Bend bluebonnets this year are along FM 170 between Presidio and Lajitas.
Despite good wildflower sightings in many places, native plants such as wildflowers face challenges to survive.
“The same climatic conditions that make for a good wildflower season help invasive plants grow that can outcompete the native plants for resources,” Waitt said.
As an example, roadways such as FM 621 south of San Marcos that would normally be covered in golden groundsel instead contain miles of turnip weed, also called bastard cabbage. The Mediterranean invader with highlighter-yellow flowers that can grow waist high is also present along many roadways in Austin. Most of those roadways are also likely to be lined by tall, lush exotic grasses such as Japanese brome that compete with native Texas grasses.
“These invasive plant species preempt and crowd out native vegetation,” Waitt noted. He serves on the advisory committee for the National Invasive Species Council and is chair of the National Association of Exotic Pest Plant Councils.
Besides removing identifiable invasive species from gardens, he recommends planting native plants or seeds to compete with invasive plants. “By adding wildflowers and other native plants to your landscape, you are reinforcing the soldiers on the front line,” Waitt said.
To learn about invasive species in Texas, visit texasinvasives.org, which is managed by the Wildflower Center. The site was recently updated to improve usability by public and professional audiences as part of a new campaign this month led by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to promote invasive species awareness.
To learn about wildflowers from Texas and other states, search the Wildflower Center’s Native Plant Database. To find suppliers of native plants and seeds in your area.
Wildflower photos are available upon request. Wildflower sightings were provided by: Michael Eason, Joe Marcus, Minnette Marr, and Dr. Mark Simmons from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Karen Stolley from Houston’s Outdoor Nature Club; Dr. Brooke Byerley from the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, and Seneca McAdams from the Brenham/Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Looking for fields of Bluebonnets or Indian Blankets, the following websites track wildflower sights around Central Texas and the Hill Country. Look for sightings or post your own.