The Serendipity of Wildflowers 2012 Fests
By Melissa Gaskill
Last year, as Texas baked and we dreamed of rain, spring wildflowers seemed a distant memory, another victim of the most intense one-year drought since at least 1895, when statewide records were first kept.
Plants, as any other living organism, will do everything they can to conserve water, up to and including not blooming in dry years, according to Flo Oxley, director of plant conservation at the University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. In spring of 2011, which included the driest March ever in Texas, only drought-tolerant species such as Texas star and redbud thrived. Many species also compensate for lack of water by not producing seeds. While that could mean bad news for spring 2012, Oxley notes that nature maintains its own seed bank, and that wildflowers have evolved to withstand periodic drought. Seeds can go dormant, for example, or drastically slow their metabolism to survive until conditions are right.
Even well-adapted Texas seeds can wait only so long, though. Bluebonnets, members of the legume family, have tough seed coats that can last a pretty long time (even several years). The tiny seeds of pink evening primrose don’t last nearly as long. When rain does come, seeds often bloom right away, which can throw off the typical timing of wildflower displays. And too much rain on ground laid bare by the drought could wash seeds away, especially on slopes.
Still, given this past winter’s oh-so-welcome rains, you’ll likely see pockets of wildflowers popping up in parts of Texas. “There will be something out there for us to enjoy. Mother Nature never comes to the party in her nightgown and curlers,” Oxley says. Wildflowers aren’t gone for good, whether nature recovers on her own or with a little help in the form of seeding.
But so no one will go home disappointed, we’ve highlighted a few of the many wildflower festivals held around the state. Whether you see many or a few blooms, these events offer plenty of fun and diversion. Then there’s always next year.
March 31: Franklin Mountains Poppy Fest, El Paso
This free, one-day fest takes place at the El Paso Museum of
Archaeology on the Castner Range, a former artillery range on the Franklins’
eastern slopes. It includes wildlife displays,
exhibits, demonstrations, plus nature walks along the museum’s 15 acres of
trails, which have views of large poppy fields. There also will be hands-on children's activities, a film series, as well as displays and performances by Native American tribes.
April 13-22: Wine and Wildflowers Trail, Fredericksburg
Thirty-three wineries scattered throughout the Texas Hill Country participate in the annual Wine and Wildflowers Trail. It includes one to three tastings at each winery on the trail and discounts on bottles of wine. Many of the wineries on the Trail also feature live music, and some offer accommodations
April 27-28: Linden Wildflower Trails
A 5K fun run, parade, a classic car display; flower, quilt, and art shows; arts and crafts and food vendors; horseshoe tournament; rides and magicians.
Apr. 13-15: Bluebonnet Festival, Burnet
A 5K run, Grand Parade, pet parade, Commemorative Air Force flyover, street dance, concert, arts and crafts, weiner dog races, doghouse race, a carnival, food, and a Cowboy Breakfast on Sunday. Festival organizers provide a map of the best driving routes for wildflowers.
March 23-April 8: Tyler Dogwood Days
Driving and Walking Tours, Tyler State Park. Take self-guided drives or walks through the park’s abundant blooming dogwoods. 903/597-5338.
April 1-30: Wildflower Month, Cuero
Pick up color-coded maps at the chamber for self-guided drives; events include a 5K run (March 31), cycling tour, and photography exhibit. Call 361/275-2112.
April 14-15: Official Bluebonnet Festival of Texas, Chappell Hill
More than 300 booths, food, live music, and other attractions fill downtown Chappell Hill. 979/836-6033.
April 21-22: 61st Annual Bluebonnet Trails Festival, Ennis
The Ennis Garden Club maps out 40 miles of wildflower drives; the festival also offers food, ven-dors, and small-town hospitality. Call 972/878-4748.
April 28-29: Red Poppy Festival, Georgetown
Artisans, a parade, concerts, a street dance, and tours
celebrate red poppies that still grow wild from seeds a WWI soldier sent home
March 24-25, 30-31, April 7: Tyler County Dogwood Festival, Woodville
This three-weekend event celebrates the Flowering Dogwood, a hardwood tree with showy white spring blooms and bright red fall fruit. On March 24-25, the Festival of the Arts includes exhibits, an art and quilt show, and period activities such as blacksmithing and quilt-making fill, an old-fashioned lunch picnic. Western Weekend on March 30-31 includes a trail ride, rodeo, parade and dance. On April 7, the Queen’s Weekend includes a 5K, street vendors and arts and crafts booths, along with an antique car show and motorcycle exhibits.