Look for wildflowers

March 16, 2013

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With any luck, spring rains will produce lush wildflowers across Texas.

Drought tends to minimize the state’s floral show, particularly if the previous winter has been dry. Will favorites such as bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush bloom abundantly in 2013?

If so, their striking blue and red colors should become apparent soon.

Aside from moisture, these bloomers need very little to germinate and grow. Like other flowers, wildflowers require pollination by insects to produce seeds. Birds, wind or other agents must disburse the seeds. Once scattered, seeds need soil contact. To persist, wildflower fields should not be mowed until the flowers set seed. In addition, weeds and other vegetation, which compete with the flowers for water, should be eliminated.

Texas is a land of sharp natural contrasts. Given these conditions, it is no surprise that its wildflower population is quite diverse. Each Texas vegetative region supports its own wildflower selection. These plants, like other natives, thrive only if planted in an environment similar to the setting where they grow naturally.

Many wildflowers are suitable for garden cultivation. To assist you in identifying wildflowers and growing them, field guides generally organize information according to native region, botanic family and color. Persons living in Hood and surrounding counties should select seed suitable for the North Central region of Texas. Seeds and plants are available from a number of commercial suppliers. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is an excellent resource for educational information as well as plants and seed. Another well-known resource is Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg.

North Central Texas and the state’s Hill Country boast similar wildflower populations.

In addition to bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush, flowers found in these regions include:

ANTELOPE HORN

This member of the milkweed family has an unusual floral display. An herbaceous perennial, it sprawls 1’-2’ above the ground with spreading stems that form a large, dense clump. Antelope horn has pale green to cream-colored flower clusters that form ball-shaped heads. The plants’ narrow leaves are 4”-8” long and pointed at the ends. The mature seedpods split open when dry, releasing seeds. When crushed, the plant emits a milky sap. Milkweeds are the primary host and larval plant for monarch butterflies.

WHITE GUARA

A member of the evening primrose family, this upright to wide-spreading slender perennial produces several stems from its base. These stems are multi-branched in the upper portion of the plant. White guara often forms large colonies. Its flowers, which have four white petals, droop downwards. The petals turn pink as they age. The flower stamens are particularly long and quite striking.

PLAINS BLACKFOOT DAISY

This plant produces white ray (daisy-like) flowers atop low-growing foliage. Each petal has a toothed edge. The flower heads grow in a dense, rounded pattern that resembles a bouquet. Blooms have a yellow-orange center consisting of disc flowers.

COREOPSIS

This wildflower is an erect-to-sprawling annual that grows 1’-4’ tall. The plants produce numerous flower heads, most often with golden yellow ray flowers. These flowers sport red centers (disc flowers). The plant stems are branched from near the base. Leaves are long, narrow and segmented. The plant’s fruits resemble insects. They are flattened with forward-projecting awns, which gives rise to the plant’s common name “tickseed.”

MEXICAN HAT

An upright or slightly sprawling perennial, this is one of Texas’ most common wildflowers. Also known as prairie coneflower, the plant produces several grooved stems from its base. Unique flower heads have drooping ray flowers, which are solid yellow, solid reddish-brown or a mix of red-brown tipped in yellow. The flower center (disc flowers) is green or brown and shaped in an elongated cone. Leaf blades are deeply divided into narrow segments. Mexican hat has one flower head per stem.

CLASPING-LEAF CONEFLOWER

An upright annual, these showy members of the aster family often form extensive colonies. The center disc flowers are brown and form a cone-like structure. Leaves, which are often sharply toothed, clasp the stem at the plant’s base.

PINK EVENING PRIMROSE

This showy perennial spreads to form extensive colonies. It is upright and sprawling with several stems emerging from the base. Flowers grow in clusters at the ends of the branches. Flower petals are rosy pink to white with dark pink veins and yellow-green centers. Their shallow cupping shape is the reason for their common name – buttercup. Flowers may open in the morning or evening.

Resources included the following helpful field guides: Wildflowers of Texas, Lone Star Wildflowers and Texas Wildflowers.

For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit the website at hoodcountymastergardeners.org.

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