RICHARDSON, Texas (AP) — A smattering of green sprouting through brown leaves blanketing the ground among barren trees at a North Texas park signal the colorful display that will soon come with the spring wildflower season, which experts say should feature good showings in parts of the state.
As wildflower spotter Jim Varnum made his way through Breckinridge Park in the Dallas suburb of Richardson this week, he pointed out the beginnings of several wildflowers. Examining the leaves of golden alexanders, which should bloom in April, he said, "This will put up a stem about 2 feet tall and have large clusters of yellow flowers."
The University of Texas at Austin's Lady Bird Wildflower Center said Thursday that the wildflower season might be delayed by cooler than usual weather in parts of the state, but many areas should have good blooms thanks to ample fall and winter precipitation.
"In some patches it could be spectacular, but overall, averaging out to a good season," said Damon Waitt, the senior botanist at the wildflower center.
The center each year makes its forecast by taking into account weather and rain patterns and relying on staffers and a dozen or so wildflower spotters across the state, including Varnum, to report what they are seeing in their regions.
Waitt said that this year the precipitation in the fall was average or below average across the state, so displays are expected to vary. Also, he said, cold snaps in March could affect the wildflowers.
"If the sun doesn't come out in March and we have gray skies and cold temperatures at night, then things are just going to kind of peter out," he said. "So a lot of variables still in play, but I'd feel comfortable saying there's going to be some really good shows. It's just going to be patchy distribution throughout the state."
Waitt said peak periods for wildflowers depend on the species and area of the state but generally run from the last week of March into late May.
And blooms are already popping up in some areas. Some Texas bluebonnets —the beloved state flower and a magnet for photos — are opening up in the Brenham area. In South Texas, Big Bend bluebonnets, taller than most bluebonnets, have been spotted in early bloom. Drummond phlox, with its small red flowers, and other wildflowers have been spotted near Seguin in Central Texas.
Many popular wildflowers — including bluebonnets, Indian blanket and Texas star — establish themselves in the winter as rosettes, a cluster of leaves spread close to the ground, keeping in heat before temperatures climb.
"We're getting a lot of reports of people seeing the bluebonnet rosettes out there, and they look healthy," Waitt said.
At Breckinridge Park, trout lilies, one of the season's first wildflowers, can be seen with their delicate white blooms. Varnum, who monitors wildflower growth in the Dallas area and beyond, said he expects a good wildflower season in the area.
"It's just starting slow, we're not seeing much other than the trout lilies. ... I think it will be into April before we start seeing a lot of things," said Varnum, who is a Texas Master Naturalist, a certification sponsored by state agencies to train volunteers on natural resources.
A freeze over the weekend in North Texas affected some blooms. Looking at a bloom-less grouping of leaves belonging to false garlic wildflowers, he said: "This was in bloom, and it probably got set back this past weekend. It was a white, six-petaled flower."
University of Texas at Austin's Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, http://www.wildflower.org