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National Wildflower Week is Next Week
If you have talked to anybody since the flowers started blooming in late February/March, I’m sure you’ve heard how beautiful the Indian Paintbrushes are, covering fields with a layer of red. Bright yellow flowers, which I believe to be some kind of aster, have been carpeting the cow pasture across from my house for weeks.
While I’ve heard about the sprawling fields of bluebonnets growing along the road, I have yet to see them myself. However, I’ve noticed the delicate, slender stalks and pale purple flowers of the Texas Toadflax waving in the grass alongside purple vetch with its fern-like leaves and nitrogen-fixing roots.
So many wildflowers are blooming, thanks to a cold, wet winter. About 4,600 wildflower species grow in Texas, and next week is the perfect time to celebrate their beauty.
National Wildflower Week will be next week from May 3 through May 9. The emphasis this year is on conservation and management of native habitats, highlighting the importance wildflowers play in the ecosystem, as well as our economy.
This year the Texas Toadflax (Nuttallanthus texanus) has really caught my attention. It is such a delicate looking flower, with such an indelicate name. Its usually lavender flowers attract butterflies, bees, and sometimes birds.
It’s actually very common around here, as it prefers sandy soils in open areas. It thrives in poor soil, and can be a nice addition to your butterfly garden. It reseeds freely, so if you do willingly throw this seed in your yard, don’t be surprised to see it coming up in other places the following year.
I did not throw out seed, it just came up on its own, which I imagine it does for most people. Sometimes its blooms may be white or a pale pink. If you see these colors, you still probably have Texas Toadflax. It grows between six and fourteen inches high. The flowers are small and reminiscent of snapdragons.
In researching this flower, I found it was used by Native Americans and early settlers to treat external hemorrhoids.
While the Texas Toadflax is native to our state, two other types of toadflax are not native to Texas or North America. These are the Dalmatian Toadflax (Linaria dalmatica) and the Yellow Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris). Yellow Toadflax is also called “common toadflax”, “wild snapdragon”, or “butter and eggs”. They have become invasive, and can be harmful to grazing animals. Both these plants were introduced from Europe as ornamentals. Several Eurasian insects have been imported into the U.S. to control these plants, as prescribed burning and other chemical means have proven to be not as effective. The main economic effect of Dalmatian or Yellow Toadflax domination is reduced grazing land for cattle.
Native wildflowers perform important roles our ecology, such as erosion control, and food and cover for wildlife. They are esthetically pleasing, and very tempting to pick. However, while it is not illegal to pick wildflowers, even bluebonnets, it is not recommended.
While you may be standing in a field lush with wildflowers, those very same flowers may actually be endangered elsewhere. Particularly for flowers we don’t recognize, this could prove detrimental to the survival of that species over the long term. Picked wildflowers will not last long in water, nor will a wildflower dug up and transplanted live for long in its new home.
The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and Texas Highways Magazine have put together their wildflower road trips for this year, called “Trips to Bountiful 2010”. Just visit www.texashighways.com and click on the Wildflower Drives link for more details.
The organization Celebrating Wildflowers sponsors National Wildflower Week. Check them out here: www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/index.shtml.
firstname.lastname@example.org; El Camino Real Master Naturalists: grovesite.com/tmn/ecrmn