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Texas Wildflowers

The Bluebonnets, Phlox, Coreopsis and Poppies of March and April germinate in September and October, born on a warm dewy morning a few days after a thunderstorm. Fall rains promote an ageless cycle of prairie life. In the narrow band of grassland between west Texas desert and east Texas forest, the seasons describe a geographical migration. Summer's heat brings the desert eastward; the slow, steady rains of fall and winter could nurture a forest.

This transitional zone is an ecotone, a grassland surrounding islands of trees. A grassland enlivened by myriad forms of annual and perennial wildflowers. It is a prairie. It is now almost gone.

Experience a sunrise in a relic prairie and imagine the distant distraction of the interstate highway is the sound of buffalo. Thousands of buffaloes. Later, watch the moon rise over the prairie and know the incalculable loss we have suffered because the howling of wolves is no longer heard at such moments. The prairie enriched our forebears, its absence impoverishes us materially and emotionally.
Growing Wildflowers

Purists demand we use only native Texas species. But that is an extreme position. Such a bias would exclude larkspur and poppy, as well as yarrow, flax and cosmos. Most wildflowers need sun. Woodland wildflowers that dwell in shade are not a part of this discussion. 

The first step is to find a sunny spot. It could even be a "problem" area; a place with poor soil, shallow soil, a slope or an area with poor drainage. Second, remove with a glyphosate-containing herbicide the unwanted vegetation, remembering that short-growing grasses like bermuda grass or buffalo grass are compatible with prairie wildflowers.

At this point, select the varieties to be sown. Look for a mix developed for our climate or chose species native or naturalized in this region. Learn which species do best in dry soils and which prefer moist environments. Be sure to include blooms that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. If you also grow edible plants, sow bee-pollinated wildflowers. If you provide a good habitat for bees, they'll enhance fruit production. 

While wildflower seeds generally sprout in the fall, nature herself sows them in May and June. As their fruits and capsules ripen and split open, some like Bluebonnet with great force, the seeds are dispersed. Throughout the summer, the seeds will settle into their proper depth and await the fall rains. 

If you buy seeds, it is best to hold them in a cool, dry place until a late spring sowing.  Also, buy Texas-grown wildflower seeds to encourage this growing industry. When sown at the proper time, just rake them in lightly. If you sow them when they are promoted in late summer/early fall, remember to do what nature would have done during the summer and mix them into the upper 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil. 

If it is dry, begin to water deeply in mid-September and keep the area moist for the following three weeks and then diminish the frequency of watering. Water sparingly during the winter and every ten days during a dry spring. 

Observe your patch of prairie wildflowers regularly. Learn the seedling appearance of the species in your planting (to distinguish them from weeds). Watch for pillbugs and other pests. Include your children in this adventure; it is an education of the finest sort. 

Learn more about our vanishing native prairies and enjoy them in their spring exuberance around your home.

The botanical images on this site were produced by The Photon Hunt.

Thank you for visiting!,
Copyright at Common Law by Manuel Flores