I don’t keep track of this, but my sense is that the usual display of beautiful spring wildflowers in our part of Texas has been a little slow in arriving.
Well, that’s not exactly my sense. It’s my wife’s sense, and her sense is rarely – if ever – wrong. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Our drive south last weekend toward the coastal region of the vast Lone Star State took us through what is typically the heart of Texas bluebonnet country around the end of March. Yes, we were greeted by lovely vistas of newly green fields and pastures, and trees showed their foliage in response to the change of season. But the wildflowers which we have come to expect at this time of year, especially around the Llano area, were few and far between.
Several possibilities came to mind. Has the unusually cold winter delayed the season? Did the state-sanctioned right-of-way mowing schedule come at the wrong time? Most importantly, what don’t we know about all this, except maybe… everything?
I turned this dilemma over to our research department, and after some in-depth investigation I learned… fear not. The best is yet to come.
“It should be a really good year from what I’ve seen in the field due to all the rain, but some recent cold, cloudy weather might delay spring flowering a week or two,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department botanist Jackie Poole is quoted as saying on a Web site out of Katy (www.instantnewskaty.com). “Look for good displays at places like Enchanted Rock, Inks Lake and Palmetto state parks where sandy soils contribute to a good mix of species. LBJ should have several fields filled with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush soon.”
Our travels happened to take us through Katy, and through Columbus as well, which is the home of the Central Texas Bluebonnet Travel Council (www.texasbluebonnets.org). Yes, I said Columbus – all the way down there on Interstate 10 and maybe 70 miles from Houston – claims a corner of what is known as “Central Texas.” But I suppose they’re entitled, since association members range from Burnet to Ennis, and from Fort Bend County to Glen Rose.
The areas lining the highways in the region around Columbus happened to be where we saw the biggest fields of wildflowers on this late March drive.
Several pages off the Texas Department of Transportation home page, www.dot.state.tx.us, offer plenty of information for those wanting to pinpoint where to go to see bluebonnets throughout the state. Our windshield observations confirm the reports included on one of those affiliated sites. “Thin patches of bluebonnets” and “Bluebonnets just beginning to pop up,” along with Indian paintbrushes, the site proclaimed Thursday, in the “Central” areas through which we had recently driven. No reports have been received yet from the Panhandle and Plains, the South or Northeast regions yet. And the reports from the North, East and West were limited to one wildflower variety and trees.
Obviously, the season is just getting started.
Elsewhere around the Web, I’m finding reports that suggest this will be an outstanding year for wildflowers not only because of the moist winter Texas experienced, but also because of drought conditions in recent years that killed off much of the grass that can sometimes crowd out wildflowers’ growth.
Texas wildflowers are more than just something whose beauty we can enjoy. They are also tourist attractions for a number of areas of the state. While the fields weren’t as deep in color as they will be soon, we did see at least a dozen families parked by the side of the highway posing folks amid the wildflowers. Of course, this has some potential for disaster, so embark on such projects with safety in mind.
And, even though you might be tempted, please don’t pick any of the flowers. Let your photos be the only thing you take away with you. Thousands of other people want to enjoy their beauty, too.
Gene Deason is editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at gene.