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?