Wildflowers Make A Comeback After Last Year's Dismal Crop

A year after drought conditions left a dismal display of Texas wildflowers, the colorful roadside attractions are making a comeback.

Bluebonnets have blossomed across Central Texas and in parts of North and East Texas that got winter rain, the critical time when the germinating flowers needed it.

"This year, pretty much all of us got acceptable amounts of rain," said Mark Simmons, an ecologist with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a botanical garden in Austin. "So far it's looking good for wildflowers."

It was a different story last spring when fewer flowers than usual popped up on interstate medians and along country roads, the result of prolonged severe dry conditions across much of the state.

"Everybody realizes we were having a pretty severe drought last year, and I'm sure it had an impact," said Mike Cox, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation. "But it looks like this is going to be a good spring for wildflowers. They're perking up. I see more every day."

That's because parts of the state got double or triple the rainfall than in the previous winter, especially in January for some places, said Daniel Huckaby, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.

But there can be too much of a good thing. Excessive rainfall for young bluebonnets can cause them to rot, Simmons said.

And heavy rains have caused some invasive plant and flower species to flourish and push out the wildflowers this year, including perennial rye grass and a tall, bright yellow flower that is spreading along some roadsides, Simmons said.

"It's pretty but it's still choking out the bluebonnets," Simmons said.

However, bluebonnets and tiny purple, yellow, red and white wildflowers dot the landscape in several eastern and northern Texas counties. On a recent weekday, a family was spotted taking photographs in a roadside field of bluebonnets near Sunset, about 55 miles north of Fort Worth.

The most colorful areas - with not only bluebonnets but Indian paintbrushes and buttercups - are in the central part of the state, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

The agency lists flower hot spots on its Web site and has a toll-free number for residents and tourists to check before driving long distances during the March-to-May wildflower season.

Last fall TxDOT sowed 20,000 pounds of wildflower seeds - 30 varieties of flowers - along the state's 79,000 miles of highways. The project that now costs about $1 million annually is for erosion control and to help boost tourism.

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.