Wildflowers of Texas!

It’s wildflower season! When most people think about Texas wildflowers 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.

Several years ago Texas experienced 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 my story in the anthology that’s been out about eight years and still available,  “Give Me a Texas Ranger”, I learned that they used to make bootleg liquor from yucca.

What is your favorite wildflower?

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.

To one lucky person who leaves a comment, I will send you an eBook of my newest Kasota Springs Romance Out of a Texas Night.

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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

35 thoughts on “Wildflowers of Texas!”

  1. I love wild flowers, some thing they are a pain in the butt but I think they have there own kind of beauty.

    • Hi Kim. Good to hear from you. You’re right, if they get started somewhere you don’t really want them, they can go crazy. But they are also so beautiful in big fields. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Hi Kim. I totally agree with you. They are beautiful and I know we’ve got some in our flower garden that really irritate me. Have a wonderful 4th of July. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Good morning, Janine. I have allergies, too, so understand. Wildflower season, in our part of Texas, sticks around a while. Have a wonderful day.

    • Hi Janine. I’ve got allergies to some types of flowers, so understand. They are pretty but hard on the ol’ sinuses. I hope you have a wonderful 4th of July! Hugs, Phyliss

  2. I enjoy wild flowers. I received a seed packet and just put them outside and now they are growing. I love it.

    • Hi Debra. I love seed packets, too. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope you and yours have a wonderful 4th of July! Hugs, Phyliss

  3. Phyliss thank you for sharing Texas’s beautiful flowers and their history. Up here in SW KS we have the same type of flowers as you do down there, for the most part. I’ll be thinking of you, Linda, and Jodi today. Love you all. ???

    • Hi Tonya. I think you know I have kids in Derby, so I kinda know that you all have the same flowers. But I agree that you have more like ours than on up northeast. Thanks you so much for the warm thoughts. It was a hard day, but we made it through. The services were lovely and I told her that everyone was thinking of her and the family. Thanks again. A big Texas hug to our Kansas friend.

  4. What an educational read. When we go to the Big Horn Mountains in July, the flowers are just starting to bloom. It is awesome. I have read your book and enjoyed that too!

    • Hi Kathy. I bet the flowers at Big Horn are beautiful. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed my book. I’m working on #3 of the Kasota Springs series and think you all will like it because it’s Sylvie’s story. She’s been in every book and has a fantastic background. And, it’s a holiday story, so it won’t be out until next fall. Kathy, hope you and yours have a fantastic 4th of July! Hugs, Phyliss

  5. Thank you for sharing. I never knew about the yucca plant. I love wildflowers. I grew up in the country and we were surrounded by fields of them.

    • Hi Charlene. Thank you for reading my blog. In this part of the country the yucca is everywhere. The part about doing art work with them when I was in school (a hundred years ago LOL) is so memorable. As a blossom they are beautiful, then kinda stagnate until the fall when they are so beautiful again. I can only image how great it’d be to grow up in the country with fields of wildflowers. I hope you have a fantastic 4th of July!

  6. I love the wild Daisies that grow around here but they only last a short while, my second favorite is the black eye susan they stay around several weeks they are everywhere now. I sure wish we had some of your beautiful bluebonnets here in Alabama Phyliss this a wonderful very informative blog. Have a very Happy 4th

    • Hi Glenda. So happy you left a comment. I love Daisies, too; as well as the black-eyed Susan’s. I wish we, in the Panhandle, had the bluebonnets, too. We can plant and enjoy them, but there is nothing prettier than a huge open field of them down in the Hill Country. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. Thank you and I hope you and yours have a fantastic 4th of July, too. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi Estella. I didn’t now the state flower of Oregon is grape. How interesting. I love yucca plants. We have a beautiful one in our neighborhood. It’s on the corner and really huge. I enjoy it so much. Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I hope you and yours have a wonderful 4th of July. Hugs, Phyliss

  7. I love the wild geraniums that grow in my yard. I just learned their name today–I always called them violets because that’s what they reminded me of but I had to look them up. Thanks for inspiring me to learn more about my own backyard!

    • Hi Carrie. I didn’t know that geraniums would grow wild. Thanks for the research. I love geraniums and always have a lot on my front porch. Buy them from two school organizations and my church. Love, love geraniums. So glad to know about them growing wild…proves you learn something new every day. I hope you and yours have a wonderful 4th of July. Hugs, Phyliss

  8. I love Texas wildflowers! I love a field of bluebonnets, Indian blanket, Indian blanket, Brown-eyed susans, mixed in with some Crimson clover. There are many beautiful Texas wildflowers and all the rain we have had this year has made them especially beautiful! I have a signed copy of your book so I do not need an ebook. Have a very Happy 4th of July!

    • Hi Stephanie. Great choices. One of my favorite family pictures is my granddaughter, who just got married in January, sitting in a field of bluebonnets when they lived down in San Antonio. She was barely sitting up by herself. I love the memories and love the open fields of wildflowers. I hope you enjoyed my book. May you and yours have a wonderful 4th of July. Hugs, Phyliss

    • Hi Denise, good to see you at P&P. I love daisies and black-eyed susans, too. I have some daisies in my garden. Wonderful flower choices. Hope you have a wonderful 4th of July. Hugs, Phyliss

  9. When I was a kid, I would always pick these little bluish/ purple flowers… have no idea what they are called…

    • Hi Colleen. There are so many beautiful spring wildflowers all over the world. What a great memory to keep. Hope you have a wonderful 4th of July. Hugs, Phyliss

  10. When I was a kid there were wild sunflowers along the road I used to love to see when we were driving to grandma’s house. We don’t see them anymore, I miss them.

  11. I love the wild white verbena, I also love the mexican hats and the Indian Blanket, they are all so very beautiful.

  12. Welcome. Wow I love this post. So much rich information. My sister gave me a wild flower. Spiderwart. I love the purple blooms that come out with the sun. And it is a real water hog. LOL

  13. Cool article, Phyllis, the wildflowers were so beautiful this year, I had to write about them in my newsletter. Fascinating stuff about the moths and the yucca. Now I know where all those big moths are hanging out–some of them are quite scary. 🙂

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