Wildflowers of Texas

When most people think about wildflowers of Texas they immediately go to our beautiful state flower the bluebonnet; which I must agree are absolutely one of the most beautiful wildflowers that exist.  But they don’t grow wild or even from seed very well in all parts of the state. You’ll find them in early spring in fields and along the roadsides through central and south Texas and are in abundance in the Hill Country around San Antonio. They were named for their color and resemblance of their petals to a woman’s sunbonnet. Of interest, it is against the state law for any state employee or contractor to mow down any wildflower when they are in bloom. 

Where I live in the Texas Panhandle which is also referred to as the High Plains because we’re up on “the caprock” you don’t see the bluebonnet other than in well maintained private gardens.  But we have some very beautiful wildflowers that are conducive to our weather and soil. 

The beautiful and impressive Indian blanket grows along roadsides and in pastures, covering large areas, sometimes up to forty acres or more, like the bluebonnet.  They are also good garden flowers.  Each has ten to twenty ray flowers, sometimes all red but usually marked with brilliant yellow on the ends of the rays, forming a band along the outside.  The disk, or center, is brownish.  

In West Texas they have Gyp Indian Blanket, which although they share a similar name, they are totally different.  I get them confused easily.  The Gyp Indian Blanket stands very tall at twelve to eighteen inches, has bare flower stems with leaves at the base of the plant.  The ray flowers are yellow and deeply cut into three lobes.  They have a large brown center that remains once the ray flowers fall off making it very striking in appearance. 

The yucca of the agava family, also known as Spanish dagger, flourishes over much of Texas, but is more common in our area.  It attains heights of eighteen feet or more.  A huge mass of white blossoms appears in spring and sometimes after the fall rains.  When I was in grade school, one of my favorite things to do was to draw dried yucca pods in art class.  When the blooms fall the heads turn to some of the most beautiful hues of browns, oranges, and sometimes they are tinged with purples and reds.

Last year was one of the biggest invasions of moths that we’ve had in years.  Thanks to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, I can share with you how the yucca was involved with the huge crop of moths; sometimes we call them miller bugs.

Yuccas are a wonderful illustration of how interconnected everything in nature is. Each species of yucca has a specific species of moth that pollinates it. Each depends on the other. The yucca depends on the moth to pollinate it, and the month depends on the yucca to provide food and shelter for its young.  Neither would survive without the other.

After being fertilized by the male, a female yucca moth spends her life making sure there will be enough food for her young.  When the yucca flowers open in the evening, she gathers pollen and rolls it into a ball. She lays her eggs on the pistil of the flower and rubs the pollen on the stigma. In this way, the yucca flower is pollinated and the moth makes sure that her young will have seeds to feed on when they hatch. After repeating this process several times, the yucca moth dies.

Seeds and moth larvae develop together in the ovary of the yucca flower, with the moth caterpillars eating the seeds. Since there are only two or three yucca moth caterpillars in each ovary and hundreds of seeds, there are enough seeds to feed the caterpillars and produce yucca offspring. When it is ready to form a chrysalis, the yucca caterpillar chews its way through the ovary, crawls through the hole and lowers itself to the ground on a thread it spins itself. Once on the ground, the caterpillar burrows into the soil, completes its metamorphosis, and emerges as an adult moth the following year as the yuccas begin to bloom. And, the cycle begins again. Since we had an invasion of moths last year, this circle of life seems very interesting! Perhaps just signs of God restoring our lands?

The genus name of the yucca moth is Pronuba. According to Roman mythology, Pronuba was the foundress of marriage, and a woman

who arranged marriages became known as pronuba. Yuccas were used by Native Americans medicinally. Yucca juice was used as diuretics and laxatives, and mashed and boiled roots were used to treat diabetes. Yucca roots can be used to make a good soap. Yucca is an important fiber plant and it has been used to make rope, sandals, and cloth. In my research for “Give Me a Texas Ranger” I learned that they used to make bootleg liquor from yucca.

What is your favorite wildflower?

To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will send you a copy of our anthology, Give Me a Texas Ranger autographed by all four authors, Jodi Thomas, fellow Filly Linda Broday, DeWanna Pace and Phyliss Miranda.

 

A special thanks to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for their information on the correlation between the yucca and the moth; and to my friend Natalie Bright for sending it to me.

Phyliss
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
Updated: October 8, 2013 — 2:50 am

30 Comments

  1. Phyliss, I do love the Bluebonnets, but there are also many other wildflowers. When I was in WY. there were lots of areas filled with different wildflowers. I always called it GOD’s garden. I would love to win this book. Thanks! Please through my name in that Stetson, then slowly pull it our for this book. Deal??

    Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  2. I love wildfowers. I haven’t read this book so I’d love to win a copy.

  3. I didn’t know about the moths, Phyliss. That’s fascinating. I’ve planted the Indian Blanket flowers in my yard. They must be gorgeous growing wild in big patches. Here in Utah our most spectacular wildflowers grow in the high mountains about June or July. We have lupines, gentians and penstemmons, mostly in beautiful reds and blues. I can hardly wait till they bloom!
    Gotta get that book!

  4. Every spring I keep my eyes peeled for the first bluebonnets of the season. They bloom later and for a shorter amount of time in Abilene where I live, but last weekend, I spotted my first bluebonnets. Yay! They always make me smile, knowing that spring has finally arrived.

  5. Hi Phyliss, loved your post. I didn’t know about the moths–fascinating. In Californiam, we know spring has arrived when the golden poppies show their faces.

  6. I love any kind of flowers, so I really enjoyed seeing these. Thank you for sharing them with all of us. I love daisies especially. My husband, who is a landscaper by trade, picked out my bridal bouquet & he made sure that there were some in it, even though we got married on a day in late October.
    Your new anthology sounds wonderful, who ever wins it is going to be a lucky lady!

  7. Maxie, good to hear from you, friend. Well, I’ll do everything I can to draw your name, but you know how horrible the winds are here in this part of Texas. I bet I have fifty winners floating in the wind ’cause half of them blow away before I can keep one in my hand! LOL

    I love your description of “God’s Garden”. That is so fitting. It’s been a long time, but I’ve been up in Wyoming when my DH’s brother and wife lived there. Such a beautiful part of God’s Country. Okay, Maxie, watch the wind ’cause it’s coming from the north, cold and wet, so if you find a slip of paper with your name on it floating in the wind, I’ll send you a book. Big hugs, Phyliss PS: It was around 80 degrees yesterday, rainy and cold today with snow expected tomorrow … only in the panhandle of Texas!

  8. Hi Cathy,glad you stopped by. I’d love for you to win the book, too. It’s the third of the six anthologies that we did together, but it’s still in print. I hope you win! Hugs, Phyliss

  9. Hi Elizabeth. I bet it’s beautiful in Utah when the wildflowers are blooming on the mountain. That’s such a pretty part of the country. We have Indian Blanket in really all parts of Texas and I get it mixed up with Indian Paintbrush. If I ever describe one in a book, I always have to look them up because although they share a similar name they are so different. Indian Blanket is mixed in with our beautiful bluebonnets in many fields. We have a lot of land in Texas for wildflowers to grow. I guess that’s the good thing about the wind here, good pollination! Hugs, Phyliss

  10. Karen, I can just imagine how great it feels to see your first bluebonnet. It’s like our daffodils here. When we see them or crocuses, we know spring is just around the corner because they’ll peep up through the snow. As you know, the bluebonnets down around San Antonio are so massive and absolutely breathtaking. I love to drive along the highways and see them there in Abilene. Have a great day, Sister Filly. Hugs, Phyliss

  11. Phyliss, a very interesting post. I didn’t know about the correlation between the yucca and moths. Very cool! I love springtime. The wildflowers are so beautiful. Makes my soul sing to see fields of them. Last year I had a handful of bluebonnets come up in my flower bed that’s near the street. I’d never seen them before in that bed so I think the wind blew the seeds. I don’t think anyone planted them. I’d love to take a trip to the Hill Country but I doubt I will be able to.

    Thanks for sharing your info. It’s good to know.

    Wishing you tons of inspiration on your work in progress that’s under contract!!

  12. I love to see big open spaces with wildflowers.
    My favorites are also bluebonnets, just because they’re the sign that winter is almost over.

  13. I love wild flowers. I’ve never been to Texas so I enjoyed hearing and seeing the ones you mentioned. I’m horrible at names but anything that grows wild (even weeds) brighten up so many areas that would be drab without them.

  14. Those are lovely wildflowers… the turkey was cute!

  15. Lovely post and info, Phyliss. I confess I got some bluebonnet seeds at the Alamo and I have yet to plant them. I’ve got a very non-green thumb LOL. My fave wildflower: the giant coreopsis that look like little yucky withered Joshua trees until just after winter when they bloom. They light up Pacific Coast Highway with massive yellow daisy-like flowers for just a few weeks. I can’t even keep my eye on the road. They are now just dying, and it just stops my breath, knowing I must miss them for another whole year. xox

  16. Around here I think we just have dandelions, daisy’s, and golden rod which is the state flower. I think in my yard its mostly dandelions.

  17. I love wildflowers. Bluebonnets are a favorite. However, where I live you swear the dandelion is a state flower.

  18. I am sure there are lots of wild glowers out in the country, but in the city I don’t see many of them. They are lovely flowers.. Our daffodils will be out soon, as will our tulips soon. If the weather gets warm that is.. pretty cold spring day today…

  19. Hi Margaret, I’ve seen the Golden Poppy. Isn’t it wonderful how various parts of the country recognize the coming of spring so differently with their wildflowers? Thanks for stopping by Sister Filly!

    Maria P, what an absolutely precious story. I can see this popping up in a book somewhere. I love it. What a great guy. Have you ever heard of chocolate daisies? They have some planted at Wild Cat Bluff, a nature center here. They smell just like chocolate. They gave me some seeds from the plants but they never did any good in my flower bed. Thank you for sharing a very personal and delightful story. Hugs to both of you ladies, Phyliss

  20. Hi precious friend, Linda. I didn’t know some bluebonnets showed their heads in your yard last year. What a wonderful surprise, but then you’re about 125 miles south of here, which might explain them showing up. Probably from Karen’s area in Abilene! Thanks for the good luck on my WIP and contracts, but I’m more excited about the offer and ultimate contract on your house so you can get to Amarillo really soon. Big hugs and much love, Phyliss

  21. When I am in Colorado, i enjoy the wild Columbines and here on the deserts of Arizona the wild California poppies are in bloom. The entire mountainside is yellow-orange. it is beautiful

  22. Stefanie D, thanks for stopping by. I totally agree that the wildflowers are a reminder of spring. We’ve had weird weather here. Yesterday followed a wonderfully warm spring weekend, today is overcast and rain (even had to scrape ice off my windshield to go out) then snow tonight. Spring again by the weekend. Yikes, I’m afraid our wildflowers are going to have to go into therapy for depression if it doesn’t stop changing. So far no wildflowers up this north in Texas, but lots of buttercups. Hugs, Phyliss

    Hi Catslady. I’m with you, I really don’t care the names as long as I can enjoy them! Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment; and if you ever get to Texas give me a call and I’ll buy coffee. Hugs, Phyliss

  23. CateS, thank you. I took the pix of the turkey and yucca down in Palo Duro Canyon several years ago. We had a writer’s retreat when our first anthology was released, so we spend the weekend in one of the Conservation Corp cabins and had a wonderful time. I have a link on my website just for “Critters” because I love them so much.

    Hi Sister Filly, Tanya, I didn’t know the name of the flower but know which ones you’re talking about from my many visits to California when my oldest daughter and her family lived there. As you know, they are moving back and I’m so excited to see the beautiful flowers out there once again. Not the ones planted for sale, but the real wildflowers. My contemporary romance “The Tycoon and the Texan” will be out at the end of summer by eKensington and it begins in LA and moves on down to Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley, which I think is some of the most beautiful part of the California coast. Of course it ends up in where else but Texas! Thanks for commenting, friend. Hugs to both of you, P

  24. HI Phyliss…I love bluebonnets. I remember the first time I really saw them. I was standing in field of them by a lake in Texas. I thought they were hardy and hearty in both respects and oh, so beautiful. It was truly like a carpet of brilliant blue.

  25. Quilt Lady and Lori, ladies, do I ever hear you about the dandelions and some type of really pretty purple weed that really look beautiful in my new lawn! Easy to grow. Needs little water and my 1st grade granddaughter loves to pick them and bring a sweet bouquet to her Granny! Gotta love those kids. Thanks ladies for commenting and big hugs, Phyliss

  26. Kathleen, I know about those cold yucky spring days. We’re having one today and might have snow. I don’t know what wild glowers are, but will look them up. If you like them, I know I’ll love ‘um.

    Joye, you are certainly a testimony to how every part of our country has their special wildflowers. Thanks for stopping by today.

    Hi Charlene, a huge field of bluebonnets is truly something to see. I tried to find a picture of my youngest granddaughter, who will be seven on Friday, when she was barely able to sit up, sitting in a field of bluebonnets down at San Antonio. She had a huge red bow in her hair that was almost as big as her little face. Couldn’t find it, dern it. Thanks, Filly Sister, for coming by the leaving a comment.

    Hugs to all you all, Phyliss

  27. I must say good night. It was a great day and if any of you check back, I pray you have a wonderful evening. I’m fixin’ to put all you all’s names in Felicia’s Stetson and draw one and will ship you an email. Well, that is if Jasper hasn’t taken Miss Felicia out in no man’s land for a romp. Hugs to everyone, Phyliss

  28. My favourite is the buttercup. I’m not sure if it is a wildflower or weed here but there is lots of them along the road during the summer months.

  29. Phyliss,

    I just love wildflowers, and the Indian Blankets you mentioned look gorgeous. I never realized Yucca could be used in so many ways.

    Thanks so much for this post!

    Kirsten

  30. Hi Cindy in Ontario. I wonder if your buttercups are the same as our daffodils. We call them buttercups and besides the crocus they are generally the first flower to bloom in our flower beds. Thanks for dropping by.

    Hi Kirsten. Thanks for leaving a comment. I was surprised at how many usages the yucca has; and, of course, the whole idea of moths growing in a cycle within the yucca was fascinating. Like I said earlier, I research yucca being used for white lightening, although I didn’t use it. I thought that was another interesting face. Ladies, I think I got you both in the drawing; although I’ve already posted the winner. Thanks so much for stopping by. Big hugs to both of you ladies, Phyliss

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