Wildflowers of Texas

I had the opportunity to spend a few quiet days at a writer friend’s ranch established in 1895 here in the Texas Panhandle.  We began the day drinking coffee and watching the sunrise from the back porch and ended each day sitting on the front porch taking in the fantastic sunsets. We’ve had a lot of rain, so the wildflowers are really pretty right now.

In 1971 the bluebonnet of Texas was declared our official flower.  They aren’t native to our region of Texas, but I couldn’t start to describe any wildflower of Texas without beginning with the bluebonnet. They grow extensively over the state, primarily from the northeast to the southwest, but their greatest displays are on the limestone hillsides of Central Texas, creating large fields resembling a sea of blue. 

It’s not uncommon to see bluebonnets in fields of  impressive Indian blanket. To me they are one of the most beautiful wild flowers of Texas, especially mixed with bluebonnets.  Each has ten to twenty ray flowers, sometimes all red but usually marked with brilliant yellow on the ends of the rays, forming a yellow band along the outside.

A flower that typically gets confused with Indian blanket is Scarlet Paintbrush or Indian Paintbrush, as it’s more commonly known.  They represent one of  Texas’ most beautiful landscape displays. In the Hill Country around Austin and San Antonio large fields of red and blue, sometimes sprinkled with white prickly poppy are impressive sights.  The paintbrush plant grows between six and fifteen inches tall. Flowers with the attending floral leaves, called bracts, grow around the upper three or four inches of the stem.  The intense red-orange color is due to the bracts, which almost hide the inconspicuous cream-colored flowers. 

But the Whole Leaf Indian Paintbrush typically found in the Panhandle is about the same size as the Scarlet Paintbrush but it bears several leafy stems from a woody root.  The leaves are narrow, unlobed, and undivided.  The bracts are usually scarlet or cerise, sometimes yellow, mostly rounded on the outer edge.  Mixed with other wild flowers, it is easy to mix up the Indian blanket and the Indian Paintbrush because of the similarity in color.

To me one of the prettiest, yet oddest and deadly, plants found in Texas is the Jimsonweed.  You’ve probably heard it called devil’s trumpet, devil’s weed, thorn apple, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, pricklyburr, devil’s cucumber, Hell’s Bells, or moonflower, just to name a few.  The large, white, trumpet-shaped flower can be found from one end of the state to the other and is always a refreshing surprise. It is a spreading, busy plant, often three feet tall and between five and eight feet across.  The branches are mainly on the upper half.  The board leaves are four to ten inches long with fine hair, especially along the vein.  The flowers somestimes have a pale pinkish cast.  The petals are united to form a funnel.  But the surprise … they open in the evening and close by mid-morning.  On still evenings, hawk moths are apt to dart from flower to flower.  The plant is poisonous, but because of its bad odor and taste, thank goodness, livestock seldom eat it.

What is your favorite wildflower?

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A native Texan, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Phyliss Miranda still believes in the Code of the Old West and loves to share her love for antiques, the lost art of quilting, and the Wild West.

Visit her at phylissmiranda.com

17 thoughts on “Wildflowers of Texas”

  1. Lovely blog and photos, Phyliss. Here in Utah we have Indian paintbrush but if we want blanketflowers we have to plant them in the garden. Have never seen bluebonnets here but would love to see Texas when they’re in bloom.
    My favorite wildflower is the columbine, which grows in the mountains here and is the state flower of Colorado. The big blue ones are gorgeous.

  2. Phyliss, what an interesting blog. I never get tired of looking at Texas wildflowers. One of the prettiest I think is the cacti blooms. They’re really something to see on a big prickly pear. And the cacti are abundant everywhere in not only Texas but other states too as you well know.

    Wish I could’ve gone with you to the ranch. It sounds wonderful. Maybe next time.

  3. I have a wildflower my mother in law called Sweet Rockets…growing along the north side of my house. They come in purple and white and have kind of a arrow shaped bloom of many small flowers.

    I once in a rustic decorative mood, went out to pick wild sunflowers that grow all around me. When I started trying to find a few … up close … they were DISGUSTING. chewed up by bugs and all spotty and brown. From a distance they’re so pretty. Sunflowers you have BROKEN MY HEART!!!!

  4. hi Phyliss, great post and lovely pictures. I brought everybody bluebonnet seeds on my visit to San Antonio…haven’t heard if anybody planted them LOL. I used jimson in a book when a bad guy wants to poison livestock.

    I guess my favorite would have to be our Golden Poppy. We tossed out wildflower seeds across a flower bed outside and were so pleased to see a nice bunch of poppies this year. OH, those ranch mornings sound so lovely!

  5. Hi Elizabeth, we don’t have bluebonnets up here in the Panhandle. Our soil and weather is just not conducive to them, even if they are planted in flower beds. Require a lot of TLC here, but down south they are absolutely the most beautiful sight in the world. When you come over a hill and see blue sprinkled with the reds and oranges with a tad a white as far as you can see, it’ll seriously take your breath away. I wanted to use one of my picture of my youngest granddaughter sitting in a field in San Antonio when she was about 18 months old. She had a red headband on, and it is so cute, but couldn’t find it. Dang it. The sunset was taken this last week. I love columbine, too. I think it’s so pretty over fences, but around here it’ll climb up telephone poles and many places folks don’t really want it to be, but it is a beautiful flower. I agree that blue is the prettiest. Thanks for stopping by, and I pray everything is okay in your neck of the woods with the wild fires in Colorado. Love, P

  6. Hi Phyllis, I always wondered what the dreaded loco weed looked like. I had no idea it was another name for my lovely moon flowers! I have soft spots for wild Violets and Spanish Needle, but my absolute favorite would be Blue Bells. Or maybe Queen Anne’s Lace.
    And Day flowers, but my DH keeps mowing them down. You know, I like a lot of weeds too. The neighbors don’t always appreciate my taste in landscaping, but what do they know? Who gets to decide what are flowers, what are wild flowers and what are weeds?

  7. Here in central Washington we have Lupine but not the variety that is “Texas Blue Bonnets”. We also have a lupine that is a not quite yellow not quite white that grows in some areas. Gallardia aka blanket flower does grow wild here. My husband and his mom always called it Brown Eyed Susan and it is very different from the flowers we called Black Eyed Susan in Northeastern New York. Local names for plants can be so varied, and so “local”.

    This was a really nice post, loved the pictures. I had no idea that the horrible Jimson Weed was such a pretty plant.

  8. I enjoyed the post.

    Here in Oregon we have a Tiger Lily that grows wild along the roadsides.

  9. Hi Linda, I love the prickly pear, too. We could do a whole brog on various caci and the region they come from. I remember seeing a preview cover of a Texas historical where they used a Socorro cactus to anchor it. The writer nearly had a conniption fit, but it got changed. I sure wish you could have been with us, too. It was hot, but the days were wonderful and quiet. Nature at its finest, but we’ll have other opportunities to go out to Nat’s ranch for some quiet writing time. Hugs, P

  10. Hi Mary, what a great name Sweet Rockets. I tried to look it up in my Texas Wildflower field guild, but as I anticipated it isn’t there. They sound beautiful, and I’m sure because they are something meanful to your mother-in-law, they are twice as precious to you. I can just imagine you going out into a field of Sunflowers to pick some. I never gave it a thought, but I bet they can be nasty. We had a plant not far from here where they grew sunflowers for the seeds (don’t recall if they were to eat or plant, but think to eat and make oils from) and the fields were absolutely beautiful, but then I didn’t look up close at any of the individual sunflowers! Have a great day, friend. Hugs, P

  11. Hi Tanya, I hope everyone planted their bluebonnets. In Texas it’s against the law for the contract mowers for TXDoT (highway dept) to mow along the side of the rode when wildflowers are in bloom. That’s neat about using the jimson weed in a book. Great twist.

    I bet the Golden Poppies are really beautiful; and like you, I love to just toss out a bunch of seeds and see how they grown. They are so pretty. Maybe we’ll be able to share a wonderful ranch morning or two this fall when you travel our way. Looking forward to it. Hugs, P

  12. Hi Judy H. Those dern DH’s, they sure like to mow, don’t they! I think the Jimsonweed is really pretty. When my kids moved into the house they had built in San Antonio, along the sidewalk were some of the prettiest plants you’d ever want to see. I found it so fascinating that they curled up during the day and came out at night. Then we learned they were loco weed. They are pretty, but dangerous, so they had to go bye-bye when the lawn was put down. Dang it. I love Blue Bells, too. I totally agree with you about who says what’s weeds and what’s flowers. I bet there were a whole lot more blooming weeds a long time before flowers as we know them were around; particularly, in this part of the country. Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us some of your favorite plants. Maybe you should put a little fence around the plants you don’t want your DH to mow down. But if he’s like mine, he’d mow down the fence to get to them. LOL Hugs, P

  13. Hi Phyliss, Tanya already mentioned our California poppies. We also have an abundance of lupines along the freeway. They give us something pretty to look at during rush hour.

    Have a happy 4th everyone!

  14. One of my favorites is the lowly flower we have
    always called the buttercup. It is a low-growing,
    medium pink, & cup-shaped bloom with a bright
    yellow center. It is found growing in our south-eastern part(and probably all) of Texas. There is also a purple-blossomed wild plant that has become
    more prevalent over the last few years. It makes me
    think of the Bluebonnet except for the color. We
    didn’t get to take our drive into East Texas to see
    the blubonnets this year, but God willing, we will
    next April!

  15. I guess for us Califorians it’s the Poppy and the Lupine that are the most popular. But up here in the very high desert, we have a very prolific yellow flower that grows beside the highway. It is especially heavy right after a rain. We have had a lot of rain lately and so the yellow is everywhere. It adds to the sage and purple and orange of the others. Our sage isn’t a wildflower, but it is very beautiful to a desert rat.
    Happy 4th to all of you and don’t get too sunburned.

  16. Evening ladies, several of you mentioned the Lupine and I wasn’t familiar with it although my kids lived in Lompoc before they moved back to San Antonio, so I had to look it up. It’s beautiful. Of course living in the Flower Capital of the World (I think I’m correct) there is nothing more beautiful than the fields of flowers used for seeds. They absolutely will take your breath away and the Lupine certainly does. As a matter of fact my new short contemp romance “The Tycoon and the Texan” begins in LA and they venture through Santa Barbara, Lompoc and up Harris Grade into Santa Maria before they end up where else but Texas! And, Pat I’m sorry you missed East Texas during bluebonnet times, but pray next year you all will make it. Mary J, the Poppies of California are also breathtaking. We have a lot of sage here, too.

  17. Hi Hilltop Farmwife and Estella. Glad to see both of you today. I’ve not heard of the blanket flower but they sound beautiful. I think everyone loves Black Eyed Susans. At Coyotte Bluff that is a nature reserve now and part of the original Frying Pan Ranch, they have a Chocolate Daisy. It smells just like chocolate. Estella, the Tiger Lilly is beautiful, but I didn’t realize they were a wild flower in your neck of the woods, because we have to plant and nurture them here in the Panhandle. Thanks for dropping by, Margaret.

    I hope each of you, along with all of your family and friends, have a wonderful and blessed 4th of July. It outta be against the law to have a holiday like the 4th in the middle of the week, but I guess we’ll deal with it. Happy Independence Day to all. Big hugs and much love, Phyliss

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