WILD about Wildflowers
Paint your garden with a palette of color
October 15, 2009


by Maria Sobczak
Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Victoria County Master Gardener
Editor's Note: This is Part II of a two-part series on Texas wildflowers. The local Painting Texas with Wildflowers committee consists of Master Gardeners Maria Sobczak, local and Texas state chairman; Olivia Blanchard, Helen Boatman, Lupe Cook, Kay Dillingham, Florence Kirkland, Edna LaFour, Sara Meyer, Ann Parks-Hedrick and Jeanette Ray, all of whom contributed to the series.  SEE PART I HERE.
PHOTOS CONTRIBUTED BY WILDSEED FARMS AND TEXAS AGRILIFE EXTENSION SERVICE
The pink evening primrose is a perennial native, also known as buttercup, because of the cup shape of the flower and its butter-colored pollen.
From the Panhandle Plains to the Gulf Coast, Texas offers a wealth of breathtaking wildflowers for travelers, whether visitor or local, to take pleasure in and pictures of, to their hearts content.

When the local Painting Texas with Wildflowers committee members began researching the varieties found in our area, we found that the more unusual flowers were usually the more interesting. So, each of us offers one that is either prevalent in this area - or one that we may just be fond of - due to its uniqueness or the fact that it is a survivor in spite of what nature or we humans provide. Presenting the information we gathered chronologically by normal bloom times and preferred environment should help you select what and where to plant.

SPRING THROUGH SUMMER AND INTO FALL


Pink Evening Primrose
- My initial encounter with wildflowers in my garden was with the pink evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa). Some consider it a weed, but its drought tolerance and willingness to return and bloom each spring make it endearing to me. This perennial native plant is known as buttercup to some because of the cup shape of the flower and butter-colored pollen that is left on your face when smelling the flower. It blooms from March to July.

Herbertia - The herbertia is a pretty purple member of the iris family that grows primarily in the Texas coastal area. According to Painting Texas with Wildflowers member Helen Boatman, herbertia comes up through St. Augustine turf grass and blooms March through May in her yard.

The stem is upright, smooth and delicate, reaching about 12 inches tall. The flower is composed of three purple petals, about two inches across.

The flower lasts only one day; however, two or three new ones will come from the same stem in successive days. The leaves are narrow and grass-like.

After distribution of the seeds produced by the flowers, the grass can be mowed and the little herbertia bulb will rest underground until next year, when a new plant will re-emerge.

Blue-eyed grass - A "kissin'-cousin" of the herbertia is blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium spp.), a grass-like perennial, wildflower program member Kay Dillingham said, that can be seen blooming in pastures and prairies along the Gulf Coast from April through May.

The blooms are blue to purple and the plant can grow from 4 to 12-inches tall. It is not a true grass, but is related to irises, too.

Indian paintbrush and Indian blanket
- Travel to any region in the state from late April to June and you'll observe these annual wildflowers growing on roadsides, hillsides and/or coastal prairies.

Their resemblance in color often leads to confusion in identifying them.

Known for brilliant reds and red-orange blooms, called bracts, the Indian paintbrush (Castilleja, spp.) grow from 1 to 1 feet, while the Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), sometimes known as firewheel, because of the ray-like flower with tips of yellow on the red petals, ranges from 1 to 2 feet in height.

Wildflower program member Jeanette Ray explained that both varieties thrive in full sun, preferably in well drained sandy soil or even caliche, according to the Texas Wildflowers Field Guide.

Blackfoot Daisy - The Blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthus) is a low-growing (6-12 inch) perennial that thrives statewide in rocky, dry soils, said wildflower program member Olivia Blanchard.

As a cultivated plant, it grows taller and more open. Too much moisture and overhead watering cause it to be short-lived. It can be grown in any well-drained soil. When it dies, cut it to the ground in winter, it will return in the spring.

This xeriscape plant requires no fertilizer and thrives in drought conditions due to a deep taproot. Good air circulation prevents fungal growth. The mound-like, one-inch flowers are white with a yellow eye and are displayed March to November.

Thistle - The maligned favorite flower of Eeyore, friend of Winnie-the-Pooh, is the thistle, though his is probably not from Texas.

Wildlfower program member Sara Meyer tells us that ours can be found from April to August throughout the state, except in the northeast and southeast.

There is a two-mile long stand of thistles on U.S. Highway 87 between Cuero and Thomaston in our area.

This upright, bristly-spiny, wooly biennial or perennial, featuring pink to rose-purple blooms, attract the larvae of the painted lady butterfly, while goldfinches like to eat the seeds.

Along with Eeyore, bumblebees love them, too.

Black or Brown-eyed Susan - As we move into summer and fall, Ann Parks-Hedrick relates that she discovered, in the book titled "Wildflowers of Texas" by Greyata Ajilvsgi, the black or brown-eyed Susans (rudbeckia hirta), characterized by short hairs on both leaves and stems, with long yellow ray florets surrounding a dark domed center, reaching two to three feet in height, continue performing from June through October.

Being drought tolerant, they reseed in various habitats such as roadsides, in pastures, but especially in sandy soils, requiring full sun.

COMMUNITIES CELEBRATE WILDFLOWERS


Depending on your timing, you can catch a variety of wildflower celebrations around the state. One of the oldest bluebonnet trails is in Ennis, featuring more than 40 miles of well-marked trails.

Many other communities honor our state flower, as well as all of the other beautiful wildflowers found in Texas.

Of note locally is the attention given to wildflowers in Cuero and DeWitt County in the spring.

You can obtain that information and more in a brochure called Wildflowers of Texas, which is available from Texas Department of Transportation, Travel Division, P.O. Box 14929, Austin, TX 78714.

And then the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is only a two and a half hour drive from Victoria. Go to www.wildflower.org for information and directions.

With more than 1,000 different species to choose from, one should be able to find a few favorites and start painting your garden with wildflowers, too.

For more information, check out www.vcmga.org and
Painting Texas With Wildflowers.
The Indian blanket (also known as Gaillardia) with tips of yellow on red petals, ranges from 1 to 2 feet in height. Due to resemblance in red color, it sometimes is confused in name with the Indian paintbrush.
The black or brown-eyed Susan is characterized by short hairs on both leaves and stems and with long yellow ray florets surrounding a dark domed center. It continues to bloom June through October.
The blackfoot daisy plant is an evergreen perennial sporting bright white flowers with yellow eye centers that thrives statewide with xeriscape qualities.
ATTRIBUTES OF WILDFLOWERS

*Most attract butterflies and/or hummingbirds.
*Many are Texas natives.
*Most have xeriscape characteristics of high heat tolerance and low water requirements.
*Most bloom in spring and summer, some into the fall and a few year round.

LOCAL WILDFLOWERS THAT ATTRACT BUTTERFLIES

Two Varieties of Wild Verbena
*Dakota - A low trailing or creeping perennial with purple, pink and lavender blooms.
*Rose - An upright, as well as a creeping, perennial having trumpet-shaped cluster blooms.

Butterfly weed
An upright perennial with bright orange and yellow blooms; acts as host plant for monarchs.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.