Experts say fall and winter rains in many areas across Texas will help bring impressive wildflower blooms.
The University of Texas at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center said Wednesday that wildflowers should start blooming in earnest in North Texas and some other areas with the arrival of warmer weather. Wildflowers though have already been spotted in some areas, including in and around Big Bend National Park, where Texas bluebonnets -- the state flower -- are blooming. Near Houston, bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush are popping up near Interstate 10.
Dr. Mark Simmons, the wildflower center's program director, said he expects early bloomers like bluebonnets and pink evening primrose to be "stunning."
"We're on track for a great year based on the soaking rains that have occurred in many places every two to four weeks," said Simmons. "I suspect early spring bloomers like Texas bluebonnets and pink evening primrose are going to be stunning."
He said recent temperature swings shouldn't hamper blooms since early spring wildflowers have adapted to Texas' weather extremes.
When wildflowers start to bloom, remember to send your photos to iSee@nbcdfw.com.
In the meantime, here are Texas sightings from recent days from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Big Bend bluebonnets have been having a banner year in and around the national park for weeks, with many blooms spotted along Highway 170, also known as the river road, particularly along the Big Bend ranch stretch. Rock-nettle is also blooming on cliffs about 10 miles west of Lajitas. In the Rockport area, Texas bluebonnet blooms are at their peak in the cemetery on Tule Park Drive, as are blue curls.
In north San Antonio, less conspicuous plants like windflower, prairie fleabane and curvepod fumewort are at their peak. In addition, showier wildflowers such as greenthread are blooming in good numbers along Highway 281 North such as at the intersection with Encino Rio. Goldeneye phlox is also becoming more numerous amidst grassy stretches. Agarita is in peak bloom in that part of Bexar County, and in Uvalde County, which shares the same wildflower species "palette."
Along the trails at Lady Bird Lake and elsewhere in Austin, Carolina jessamine has been spotted, as have wildflowers such as a few Texas bluebonnets. That state flower and Indian paintbrush are starting to put on a great show on Interstate 10 near Houston, particularly east of Columbus. Texas bluebonnets have also begun blooming in Old Baylor Park in Independence.
Meanwhile, parts of the Panhandle and the Highland Lakes area have had below average rainfall into February. Some wildflowers don't require much rain though, and spotters have seen healthy numbers of Texas bluebonnet rosettes all around the Highland Lakes area. In other regions such as Lubbock where hard freezes have occurred into early March, no blooms are being seen yet, but many rosettes have been spotted that will bring a good show in several weeks.
At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, a few of the many large stands of Texas bluebonnets on site are blooming, Carolina jessamine is in full bloom and spots of color come from Eastern red columbine, gray globemallow and other wildflowers just opening up. As in past years, special spots have been set up for visitors to take photos as a safe alternative to doing so along state highways. The center is now open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May 31.
Take a Wildflower Quiz
To test your skill at identifying Texas' wildflowers, try the Wildflower Quiz at: http://www.wildflower.org/collections/quiz.php.
For wildflower bloom updates, visit sites such as http://www.wildflowersightings.org, http://www.texasbluebonnetsightings.com and http://www.wildflowerhaven.com. The Texas Department of Transportation will start providing sightings in mid-March at 1-800-452-9292.