By Phyliss Miranda
I am thrilled to kick off the Spring Special Week for Petticoats and Pistols. Being a born and raised Texan, I couldn’t resist doing a blog on the Spring wildflowers of Texas.
We have an abundance of variations of wildflowers in the state. Being 1,244 miles wide and 801 miles from north to south, we equal some 268,601 square miles with topography from the Gulf of Mexico to the caprock of the Panhandle then east to the thickness of East Texas and back west to the Llano Estacado. The “Lone Star” state has 254 counties spread over this quarter of a million square miles. Needless to say, we have a record number of wildflowers.
Our state flower is the beautiful bluebonnet; one of more than 5,000 species of flowering plants native to Texas. Their abundance is the results of an exceptional multitude of plant habitats and weather conditions. One of the old sayin’ around our parts is: “If you don’t like the weather, just stick around it’ll change by tomorrow.” I don’t know who coined the phrase, but it’s so very true.
My darling husband retired from the Texas Highway Department (now the Department of Highways and Public Transportation). Along the roads of the Texas highway system lie more than 700,000 acres of right of way. TexDot cares for every acre and their commitment led to making the landscape more beautiful by transplanting wild flowers. I’m not going to go into where the 5,000 wildflower species are planted, I’m just going to hit some of my favorite types of wildflowers and a tad about them. One little personal note that might save you a ticket. It’s against the law to pull a wildflower along our highways.
In my town on the corner of two of our busiest streets is a huge Yucca plant that always blooms in the spring. Native Texans held the Yucca in high regard for its practical uses. The stalks were roasted or dried for eating. Prehistoric humans reportedly twisted the fibers into twine and rope to make belts and bow strings. Yucca roots were pounded to a pulp and mixed with water to make shampoo. It’s still a popular base of many shampoos and body bars today.
The Indian Blanket of bright red-and-yellow-flowers in the height of spring, hold many legends. One came to light around 1928 and really stands out for me. A young Native American girl was lost in the woods, and as the cold night fell, she asked “The Great Spirit” to cover her with the beautiful blanket she had seen her mother weaving for her warrior father. When she woke the next morning, she found the fields covered in gaillardia, which her people called the Indian blanket from that day forth. The original Indian Blanket flower were entirely yellow, per folklore.
Another flower native to Texas is Indian Paintbrush. They are known as the co-star to the Bluebonnet and are seen together in many fields. There are approximately 200 different species of the flower, and nine are Texas natives. While Indian Paintbrush is by far the flower’s most common name, it is occasionally called butterfly weed, prairie fire, painted lady, and grandmother’s hair. The last nickname can be attributed to the Chippewa tribe, who used the flower to make a hair wash and treat women’s ailments including rheumatism.
I want to leave you with one of the least favorite wildflowers of Texas, but one that really sticks in my mind. The Jimsonweed, also known as the Thorn Apple and Angel Trumpet, is a large, white, trumpet-shaped flower that can be found from one end of the state to the other. It holds a refreshing surprise. My first encounter with the Jimsonweed was in San Antonio where my oldest daughter and family once lived. They built their house in an area where they had land behind the house and in the spring a number of vegetables and flowers would come up, corn for one. Along the sidewalk there was natural Jimsonweed; therefore, the walk was built to follow the plant up to the house. During the day there was nothing but a vine, no flower, really nothing by big green leaves. This went on for months until I went outside in the middle of the night and there were beautiful trumpet flowers on the branches. This wildflower stays dormant until sundown and blooms at night! One of the amazing things is that the plant is poisonous by nature and has a bad odor and taste; therefore, livestock and wild animals stay away from it. It has to be one of the most interesting wildflowers of Texas.
What is your favorite wildflower? I know I focused on Texas, but every state has their favorite. If you don’t have a favorite then please share with us your state’s flower.
For three lucky winners, I am giving away an eBook of my latest Kasota Springs Romance “The Troubled Texan”.
I just received word that “The Troubled Texan” eBooks is still on sale at all major retailers and they’ve extended both the special pricing of 99 cents to April 12th, as well as additional outlets.