Wildflower season is almost over and man has it been a doozy. This April the Austin area had a whopping 9.8 inches of rain total for the month. That isn’t a record but its higher than average. In Texas, April showers do in fact bring May flowers and the bloom this year was incredible.
The first arrivals are the state flower of Texas, the bluebonnet. They bloom early and mark the time when the city stops mowing highway roadsides and medians. This practice began in 1934 and was further reinforced by Lady Bird Johnson her self. There is a heavily repeated rumor that it is illegal in Texas to mow over the state flower. That is not in fact set in stone but mowing the roadsides in Texas are cycled with the spring bloom. Most of the motivation is for beautification, not necessarily ecology, but a win is a win and we will take it. The Texas department of transportation is responsible for maintaining the roadside wildflowers and each year they plant 30,000 pounds of seeds to supplement and improve biodiversity.
Blooming around the same time as the Bluebonnets, the Indian Paintbrushes or Castilleja indivisa usually compete for the same territory. They have a beautiful array of oranges and light yellow which lends you some idea as to how they go their name.
As the Bluebonnets begin to die they start to turn a bit white, with the later blooming varieties being a bit more pale in color. They produce this odd looking pea pod shaped seed that starts out hairy and begins to turn brown as it ripens. Then the oranges a reds appear with many members of the daisy family beginning to bloom. The grass looks as if a magnificent artist reached out and painted the ground with all manner of shades of yellow and orange. As the wind blows they all undulate like an underwater sea grass bed. The butterflies begin to appear and burst on the scene. Many of the most common butterflies are similar in color to the flowers blooming at the time. For a brief period of time driving seems ruthless as inevitably a few perish on your windshield.
One of the mid to late bloomers is the Common Poppy or Papaver rhoeas. Though this plant is related to the Opium poppy it does not share any of the characteristics that make that plant popular. It has been seen as an agricultural pest and with the advent of pesticides the Common Poppy is seen less often. I went and stayed one night at a friends house and all of their poppies opened at the same time early in the morning.
Whether you are new to Texas or a lifelong resident, the spring bloom is a sight to behold. It makes the spring one of the most magical times of year and worth the long wait.