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Texas-Sized Blooms

California Poppy
California Poppy or Mexican gold poppy(Eschscholzia californica ssp. mexicana) Photo by Thomas L. Muller.

Recent showers mean a handsome show of Texas wildflowers in much of the state, but are encouraging the growth of less welcome plants as well, according to the senior botanist at The University of Texas at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

"The rains we've been getting around Austin, Houston and elsewhere have been great for invasive species such as bastard cabbage as well as for the wildflowers we want to see," said Damon Waitt, who also is the center's senior director.

Early spring rains have helped Texas bluebonnets and other native plants grow, as well as boosting their blooms and the germination of developing summer wildflowers. Among the locations to see good stands of the state flower are: White Oak Bayou from Loop 610 to Interstate 10 in Houston; along U.S. 290 near S. Lamar Blvd. and along Highway 1 in Austin; under the Montgomery Street Bridge of Interstate 30 in Fort Worth; and in the median of Highway 281 in north San Antonio.

Stiff greenthread is also blooming in north San Antonio along Encino and Evans roads. And thick stands of California poppy can be seen from trails at the El Paso Museum of Archeology; stands of Drummond phlox and patches of Texas bluebonnets surround highways 181 and 123 between Beeville and Seguin, Texas; white prickly poppy, prairie acacia, and stands of bladderpod species are visible along Miners Road between Eagle Pass and Laredo.

At the Wildflower Center, clusters of hundreds of Texas bluebonnets decorate the Savanna Meadow, and California poppy and large buttercup are among the current blooming options from the hundreds of native wildflowers on site. "All this rain has helped create a very lush Wildflower Center that will continue into future months," said Waitt, noting that each day something new comes into flower at the center.


LEFT: Drummond phlox (Phlox drummondii); CENTER: Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis); RIGHT: Large buttercup (Ranunculus macranthus )

Unfortunately, bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers are harder to spot along roadways when they are mixed in with stands of invasive species such as bastard cabbage with its highlighter-yellow blooms.

"Our garden staff works hard to keep invasive plants in check so visitors can enjoy an invasives-free Texas wildflower experience," said Waitt. It's a daunting task, he noted, as removing the plant and its taproot by hand and disposing of seeds is a labor-intensive method of bastard cabbage control.

To determine whether a plant in your yard is an invasive one, visit this website the Wildflower Center developed: http://www.texasinvasives.org/invasives_database/. Developing wildflowers at the center can be viewed at http://www.wildflower.org/bbcam.

Texas Wildflower Sightings

For general public sightings, go to: http://lnstar.com/wildflowers/index.html, contact the Texas Department of Transportation at 1-800-452-9292, or view: http://www.dot.state.tx.us/travel/flora_map_disclaimer.htm.

To learn more about wildflowers nationally, search the Wildflower Center's Native Plant Information Network: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/. To purchase seeds to sow of mid- to late summer bloomers or potted native plants, visit: http://www.wildflower.org/suppliers/.

Editor's Note: Wildflower photos are available for media upon request. Roadside sightings were provided by Damon Waitt and Michael Eason of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Suzzanne Chapman of Mercer Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, and Kris Kirkwood, Rhoda Poenisch, Jerry Morissey and Judith Jones of Texas chapters of the Native Plant Society.