A Treasure Trove of Texas Wildflowers in 2003

Express News
Sunday, April 13, 2003

By Diane Pfeil

Painting of wildflower field

There are more than 5,000 species of wildflowers in Texas and this month will be a prime time for viewing a vast array of wildflowers. Highways and fields across the state will be decorated with these little treasures. The colors range from the palest pink to the boldest yellow and everything in between. This week’s article from the Bexar County Extension office will provide you with some leads on finding those “treasure troves” of wildflowers within reach of San Antonio.

One of our great natural resources in Texas is blooming all around us. Beautiful blankets of wildflowers are springing up all around San Antonio and beyond. These breathtaking blankets of color may be the blue of our state flower, the bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) or the showy yellow of the Engelmann or cut-leaf daisy (Engelmannia pinnatifida). Texas has a treasure chest full of wildflowers for residents and visitors to enjoy. Nature plays an important role in the success or failure of our wildflower plantings, and this year has blessed us with abundant rain and optimum temperatures.

What exactly is a wildflower? The National Wildflower Research Center defines a wildflower as a flowering plant, native to a specific geographical area or habitat, capable of growing in unimproved habitats. Native plants create habitat, conserve water, and reduce the need for pesticides and other chemicals. They also create a more beautiful environment and foster a sense of connection to our natural world.

Wildflowers introduce us to the diversity of our natural world. What seems to be a sea of bluebonnets from a distance turns into a variety of flower species of all shapes and sizes upon a closer look. You could equate it to a flowery blanket, with colors intermingled to reveal smaller stands of plants that weave their way into the blanket, making a richer and more complex pattern. Let’s take a closer look at some of the more common wildflowers found in the South Texas area.
Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis), the State Flower of Texas, is most commonly found along roadsides. Flowers are arranged on a spike that may or may not possess an ice white terminal tip. Indian Paintbrush or Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) resembles a ragged brush dipped in paint. The flower is tiny, creamy white to pale yellow, encircled by the red-orange leaf-like bracts. It creates ribbons of color for miles along the highways. Blanketflower (Gaillardia aristata) and Indian Blankets (Gaillardia pulchella) form dense plantings of brilliant red flowers with yellow rims. They are full-sun plants that thrive in well-drained soil. Indian Blanket is the state wildflower of Oklahoma. Drummond Phlox (Phlox drummondii) is a low-growing, full sun annual with delightfully fragrant flowers that add life to any cut flower arrangement. Lemon Mint or Purple Horse Mint (Monarda citriodora) blooms deep purple to lavender. The flowers are arranged in whorls stair-stepping up a single stem. Wine Cup (Callirhoe involucrate) has magnificent dark purple-red or wine colored flowers that are found at the end of slender trailing stems. Fall growth can be promoted by cutting the entire plant back in the heat of the summer.

While many roads are awash in color this spring, there are a few places to visit that are growing wildflowers in a garden setting. The Wildflower Center, located in Austin, is a botanical garden dedicated to native plants and inspiring people to love the land. Its purpose is to educate people about the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants. The demonstration plots, abloom with flowers, are open Tuesday through Sunday, from 9am to 6 pm. For more information, call (512) 292-4100 or visit their website at www.wildflower.org.
Driving any direction from San Antonio offers wildflowers along the our roads.

If you want the latest wildflower hot spots, you can call the Texas Department of Transportation at (800) 452-9292 or log on to www.lnstar.com/mall/txtrails/wildflowers/sightings.htm. On their website, you will be provided with sightings that include location, flower types and additional comments. You can also view a map that highlights the areas. Screen savers with beautiful high-resolution images of Texas wildflowers are also available for download from the website.

Wildseed Farms, located in seven miles east of Fredericksburg on Highway 290E, showcases a variety of wildflowers. Visitors can see a working wildflower farm while taking a leisurely stroll along walking trails ablaze with a variety of colorful blooms. The hours are 9:30am to 5:00pm everyday. The web site to visit for more information is www.wildseedfarms.com.

Be sure and get out to enjoy the bounty of wildflowers that our great state has to offer while they are still blooming!

This article was written by Diane Pfeil, Horticulture Associate-Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County.

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