Timely rains last fall and this winter have benefited early spring wildflowers, which will likely put on a good show in much of Texas despite last year's drought, according to the senior botanist at The University of Texas at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
"The seeds left behind by annual wildflowers such as bluebonnets don't care if it's the worst drought in recorded history, as long as they get bouts of rain at the right time for germination and growth," said Damon Waitt, who also is the center's senior director.
The bumper crop of wildflowers in 2010 also helped add to the seed stockpile in Texas soils that can be revived by recent rains. Rain showers should provide decent viewings in regions of North, Central and East Texas. However, it is possible that the Panhandle, South and West Texas won't fare as well.
Among the early sightings of wildflowers this year are: Carolina jessamine blooming in North Houston along FM 1960, and along Woodlands Parkway between Interstate 45 and Kuykendahl Road; hundreds of trout lilies blooming in Dogwood Canyon and elsewhere around Dallas; Texas mountain laurel trees blooming in Dripping Springs and Austin; and patches of stiff greenthread spotted in north San Antonio, such as along U.S. 281 above North Loop 1604.
Complementing these sightings will be a bumper crop of Texas bluebonnets and other wildflowers at the Wildflower Center and sites such as Brenham and the Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Houston. Bluebonnet rosettes the size of dinner plates are hugging the ground at the Wildflower Center, and Texas mountain laurel, windflower, plains fleabane and Mexican plum trees are already blooming.
Other early spring bloomers will include Indian paintbrush, winecup and Indian blanket. Center staffers will mark peaceful spots for taking bluebonnet photos. And a sneak peak of bluebonnets growing on site is available online via live broadcast.
Regions that missed pre-season rains may still have drought-tolerant wildflowers that bloom. For instance, Fendler's bladderpod may become noticeable soon near Amarillo. A Wildflower Center plant conservationist has also seen a few Big Bend bluebonnets and yucca prepping to open blooms in the national park. The outlook may not be great for many tree species, such as Mexican plum and Texas redbud in Central Texas, though.
"Trees had such a tough year in 2011. They may not have the energy resources to put on a significant flowering display this year," Waitt said, adding that perennial wildflowers may share that predicament.
To learn more about wildflowers nationally, search the Wildflower Center's Native Plant Information Network. To purchase seeds to sow of mid- to late bloomers or potted native plants, visit the suppliers directory.
Editor's Note: Wildflower photos are available upon request. Roadside sightings were provided by Damon Waitt and Michael Eason of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Suzanne Chapman of Mercer Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, and Kris Kirkwood, Rhoda Poenisch and Jim Varnum of Texas chapters of the Native Plant Society.