This past year’s weather varied greatly, from droughts in the west to average rainfall in the southeast. This variation leads experts to predict a rather patchy wildflower season this spring.
Wildflower enthusiasts will likely see nice displays in Central Texas and the southeastern third of the state, according to Andrea DeLong-Amaya, the director of horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Northeast Texas has had dry but not severe conditions, says Brandon Belcher, North Texas preserve manager for The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Management practices on the organization’s Clymer Meadow Preserve, including prescribed fires and seeding, should lead to a “very good” display of grassland wildflowers. While the preserve isn’t open to the public, much of it is visible from county roads 1562 and 1140.
For additional wildflower viewing, Belcher recommends Parkhill Prairie, a park on County Road 668 in Collin County with 52 acres of Blackland tall-grass prairie. Wildflowers there include wild petunia, Indian paintbrush, winecup, prairie clover, purple coneflower, Mexican hat, gayfeather, goldenrod, and asters. The park is open daily sunrise to sundown.
Several parks in Dallas also have quality prairie lands with blooms, Belcher says, including Flagpole Hill and other parts of White Rock Lake. Wildflowers around College Station, Bryan, and Brenham should be good this year, DeLong-Amaya says.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department posts wildflower sightings in state parks and wildlife management areas on its Flickr page and various social media accounts, including those many for individual parks. The Wildflower Center recommends scenic drives on its website.
The 5,654-acre Sandyland Sanctuary in Silsbee anticipates a good spring display, according to Shawn Benedict, TNC’s East Texas forest preserves manager. “It has been pretty wet up until recently, and if we get some late winter rains and do some planned prescribed burns, that stimulates new grasses and forbs,” Benedict says.
The property has three hiking trails, each with different types of flowers. The Longleaf Loop trail acts as a tour of southeast Texas in less than a mile, taking in Village Creek, floodplain, upland sandhills, pine stands, and a baygall, or swamp.
Blooms here in March include Texas trailing phlox, greeneyes, puccoon, flowering dogwood, and wild pink azaleas, plus Indian paintbrush and bluebonnets on the roadsides. In April, look for dayflower, butterfly weed, daisy fleabane, and prairie milkvine. Park at the trailhead and visit the sanctuary from sunrise to sunset, free of charge.
The Houston area should see normal displays this year, with some areas better than normal, says Brent Moon, horticulture manager at the Houston Botanic Garden. On the south side of the garden, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, reforestation areas feature gaillardia, blanketflower, and partridge pea. Other areas have bluebonnets, Mexican hat, coreopsis, greenthread, winecups, and Indian paintbrush.
Memorial and Hermann parks have areas that have been seeded with wildflowers, Moon says, as do Willow Waterhole Greenspace in the Westbury neighborhood and Terry Hershey Park on Buffalo Bayou in west Houston.
Michael Eason, head of San Antonio Botanical Garden’s rare plant conservation program and author of Wildflowers of Texas, reports that West Texas has been very dry and will not have much of a show in the lower elevations. Expect average displays at the higher elevations of Big Bend National Park, the Davis Mountains, and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. While paintbrushes, salvia, and perennial shrubs are fairly reliable, Eason says, annuals, including Big Bend bluebonnets, will feel the effects of lack of rainfall.
DeLong-Amaya points out that perennial wildflowers—such as Englemann daisy and winecup—are in general better adapted to drought than annuals.