Widespread fall and winter rains should make for an excellent wildflower season in much of Texas, according to Dr. Damon Waitt, senior botanist of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin.
"The return of El Niño last summer brought much needed relief from the extraordinary drought conditions we have been experiencing since the fall of 2007," Waitt said, noting that the ocean-driven weather system brought extensive, consistent rain from mid-fall into spring. "These rainfall patterns should make for exceptional early and late spring wildflower displays in many regions of Texas."
Already, Waitt has spotted large clusters of Texas bluebonnet rosettes ready to flower alongside Highway 290 near Brenham, Texas.
"El Niño favors el conejo," Waitt said, referring to the Spanish name (the rabbit) for Texas bluebonnets, based on their white tip of flowers that resembles a cottontail.
Drummond phlox, another winter annual that grows in late fall-early winter and blooms in early spring, should also put on a dramatic show.
Wildflower Center conservationists have reported Texas bluebonnets prepping to bloom in granite along roadways between Marble Falls and Llano, Engelmann's daisy along Interstate 10 heading toward El Paso, and Big Bend bluebonnet in and around its namesake parks.
Central Texas is among the regions that already has a scattering of wildflowers in bloom. They include lavender-petaled widow's tear and clusters of windflowers with white, blue or sometimes pink flowers. Also spotted have been blankets of inconspicuous Whitlow-grass and denseflower bladderpod with tiny flowers.
The real show begins sometime in March, with North Texas lagging behind a few weeks because of its cooler weather. Besides Drummond phlox and Texas bluebonnet, other wildflowers to look for along roadsides and in fields include pink evening primrose, Indian paintbrush and prairie verbena.
Thousands of Texas bluebonnets will also flower in upcoming weeks in the gardens and meadows of the Wildflower Center. It provides comfortable, safe spots for Texans' traditional baby-in-the-bluebonnets picture.
And for those who need a bluebonnet fix right away, the Wildflower Center has a live video of bluebonnets growing.
"If you like watching paint dry or are curious about seeing a bluebonnet develop from a juvenile into its flowering stage, check the BBCAM daily," Waitt said.
The center's extensive online resources also include a wildflower quiz to test participants' skill at identifying 12 Texas natives.
To learn more about North American wildflowers, search the Wildflower Center's Native Plant Database. To locate national distributors of wildflower plants and seeds, visit the native plant suppliers search engine.
Wildflower photos are available upon request.