Friday, April 5, 2013

Spring Wildflowers: Texas vs Maryland

Two weeds ago we made a trip to Texas to visit family.  The end of March is the beginning of Texas wildflower season.  We flew into Austin then drove up to the Ft. Worth area.  You could see that Austin was really coming into bloom.  As we drove northward along I-35 the number of Bluebonnents along the highway dropped off considerably.

Even at 75 mph you can appreciate Texas Bluebonnets

One thing about seeing wildflowers in Texas is that they come in big patches.  Much of this is due to the efforts of Lady Bird Johnson with the Texas Highway Department to create and preserve wildflower habitats along the highways.

View of Courtyard at the Wildflower Center in Austin, TX

When we got back down to Austin we paid a visit to the Wildflower Center.  Here we saw many of the wildflowers we saw along the highways, but this time with handy name tags.

Texas Bluebonnets at low speed.

There are about 50 species and subspecies of
Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja).  I don't know
them well enough to tell them apart.
I've been looking for seeds for Groundsel.  This looks like it would be a nice addition
to a low-growing meadow/lawn alternative.  It has bright yellow flowers in spring
emanating from a basal rosette of leaves.

This Blackfoot Daisy is found on dry well drained soils.
I was interested in growing this plant, but the Northeast
does not provide the best conditions.

This little Prairie Verbena was all by itself, but it is known to
grow in large swaths, turning the ground purple. 

The narrow bronzy-green leaves of this Spring Beauty
blend into the leaf litter.

On our return to Maryland, the landscape was just beginning to turn from brown to spring green.  However, there were no massive swaths of color as we had witnessed the day before.  Inspired by all those Texas flowers I took a walk through the woods and found a few subtle surprises.  There were little pinkish white flowers along the edge of the woods.  These turned out to be Spring Beauties, Claytonia virginica.  This ephemeral perennial blooms in early spring, then essentially disappears after setting seed.

Further into the woods I found the masses of Toothwort continuing to expand.  The buds still have not opened, but they are nearly ready.

It's early April and these Toothwort are nearly ready to bloom.

The latest find was masses of finely cut foliage indicative of the genus Dicentra.  I searched around for a while and found one clump with developing flowers.  I'm pretty sure that these are D. cucullaria, Dutchman's Breeches.  I will keep a watch out for other family members, like Squirrel Corn (D. canadensis) and Wild Bleeding Heart (D. eximia).  These are most easily distinguished by the shapes and colors of their flowers.
When the flowers of Dutchman's Breeches are fully developed
they look somewhat like upside down pantaloons.
 I'm not keeping score, but the spring wildflowers in Texas are a grand sight to behold, but when the early summer temperatures creep into the 100's they will disappear.  In the Northeast the ephemerals will also slowly fade from view, but this will be due to the developing shade of the woodland canopy rather than the heat and dryness.  No matter where you live you've got to get out and appreciate that winter is coming to an end.


Jeanius said...

Must've been nice to get a taste of warmer weather! At least you have the Spring Beauty, though.

Anonymous said...

Hi Curtis,

I just noticed I HAVE groundsel...At least I think I do. I have something called squawweed, and it looks like the same plant per a Google search. I got it at the Lowes in Timonium (Baltimore County) a few years ago. It is all over the place in one of my borders, and was one of the plants that grew under the "Crimson King" norway maple that I cut down. It appears to do well in shade and full sun, although summer hasn't hit us yet. You can try to contact Lowes and speak to the garden center manager to see if you can get some. She is a big gardener, and makes sure there is an awesome variety at the store. Don't worry, I alsp patronize local nurseries, but that Lowes is too awesome. If all else fails, you can post again, and maybe I can drop off some starts at the Herring Run nursery plant sale for you to pick up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Curtis,

I spam your blog so much. :D

I wanted to add I just looked up info about the groundsel/squawweed, and it likes chalky soil.

That may be why mine is doing so well. I have it growing along a concrete path.