Texas Wildflower Season 2014
Are We Headed for a Banner Year?
Update 2/22/2014: See report on rosettes in forums: Hill Country - Bluebonnet Rosette Report
Rich Olivieri, WildflowerHaven.com
January 2, 2014
If fall rainfall was the only factor in producing an above average wildflower season, then the spring 2014 wildflower season would definitely be on track for a great show.
Our Texas spring wildflower shows are dominated mainly by annual species (including four of the varieties of the Texas bluebonnet) that depend on adequate rainfall in the September through mid-November time frame for germination.
September and October rainfall was above average in most of the key wildflower areas with a few spots receiving slightly below average. However, the rainfall was not uniform across all areas during September or October. The storm systems that came through often laid down narrow bands of heavy rainfall. Areas outside of those narrow bands received significantly less rainfall. There were enough storm systems in both September and October to give most areas more than enough rainfall for good seed germination. The only area not receiving average or above average rainfall in September and October was the Big Bend area.
Big Bend area: Only the thin southeast edge of the Big Bend area received above average rainfall in September. The Big Bend State Ranch area received below average rainfall for September through November. This does not mean there will not be any bluebonnets or other wildflowers in the Big Bend area, but unless the area experiences above average rainfall in late winter/early spring there will likely not be any grand displays (like a desert bloom). There certainly could be some sections with very nice displays even with the current rainfall pattern.
Brenham area (Washington, Austin, Grimes and Waller counties): September and October rainfall for the Brenham area was at or above average rainfall. The main “bull’s eye” was in October over the southeast section of the area bordering on Austin and Waller counties. Overall the area received well above average rainfall for September and October which should have yielded good results in seedling germination. The downside is that with the exception of one small area, the November rainfall was below average, but still it should have been enough to sustain any existing seedlings.
Ennis area (Ellis County): September and October rainfall for the Ennis area was at or above average rainfall. The typical clay to sandy loam soil in the Ennis area does better with average rainfall. Too much rain often leads to problems with seedling development, so it is better to have at or slightly above average rainfall in the Ennis area. The November rainfall was slightly below average but should have been enough to sustain any existing seedlings.
Hill Country area (Blanco, Burnet, Gillespie, Llano, Mason and San Saba counties): The September and October rainfall for the Hill Country area was hit and miss. Mason, Burnet and San Saba counties received well above average rainfall in September and October, but the southeast sections of Gillespie and Llano counties were below average in rainfall in September and only at or slightly above average rainfall in October. November rainfall was especially hit and miss throughout the Hill Country with most sections receiving below average rainfall with at or above average rainfall seen in only a few spots. The sandy to sandy loam soils of the Hill Country fare best with above average rainfall throughout the fall and late in winter. This means that the sections receiving above average rainfall in the Hill Country tend to do better at seedling germination and development.
South Texas area (includes counties south and southeast of San Antonio): September rainfall was the best for the South Texas area with the La Vernia, New Berlin and St. Hedwig areas receiving well over average rainfall. The October and November rainfall for most of the South Texas area was below average with only a few spots receiving at or above average rainfall. If the September rainfall yielded significant rainfall for seedling germination then the October and November rainfall should have been enough to sustain seedling development.
It is important to understand that although fall rainfall is very important, fall rainfall is only one factor that leads to an above average wildflower show in the spring. Other factors for a great spring wildflower show include:
- Late winter and early spring rainfall is very key to rosette root and plant growth. Usually the rosettes with deeper and better developed root systems are the ones that yield larger plants with more blooms.
- Warming temps in March are needed to encourage growth of plants and bloom stalks. Usually when the night-time temperatures are averaging 50 to 60 F, bluebonnet plants will increase plant growth and send out bloom stalks. Cooler temperatures in March will tend to delay the blooming period. Warm temperatures with good rainfall will tend to promote an early and longer season. Extreme heat in late March and April with less than average rainfall will promote a quick and shorten season.
- Plenty of sunshine during the typical flowering time is important especially for sun hungry bluebonnets. Long periods of overcast skies with warm/damp weather can encourage development of plant and root diseases. I have seen entire bluebonnet crops wiped out by root diseases.
- Less competing vegetation - Dead vegetation from previous seasons not removed can result in excessive shading thus limiting rosette and seedling development. Often aggressive invasive species will use this tactic to push out native wildflowers. In recent years the giant common mustard/bastard cabbage has taken over entire pastures resulting in little or no native wildflower growth.
- Proper mowing/grazing - Grass mowed/grazed in late August and again in late January (but not too low to remove seedling rosettes) will help in removing/reducing dead/competing vegetation. Roadside mowing during the prime blooming months of Mar-May can literally kill a good wildflower display. Also, pasture lands overgrazed by livestock will often be completely barren of any wildflowers. This is particularly true of pastures grazed by goats and sheep. Deer usually do not choose native wildflowers as a food source, but where there is overcrowding and fewer food sources they will munch on native plant seedlings.
Well one thing is certain, there will be some wildflowers blooming somewhere in Texas in 2014. If rainfall and temperatures approach normal levels in February and March then there will probably be some spectacular displays of bluebonnets and other wildflower blooming. I will be scouting and reporting on the best areas for wildflower photography, so stay tuned!
Coming in February: Detailed maps and forecasts for the 2014 Texas Wildflower Season