Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Exceptional wildflower viewing in Southeast Texas

Austin area - typical Bluebonnet field on this trip
It as been a bumper crop along our highways and in our fields this year. In the middle of Spring, we always get a show, but this year is much better than most. Our highways turn into colorful parks for Texas residents. When there is no fence and no sign, properties are often used for photographs. I recently took a trip to observe what it is like out there on our "highway parks". The route I chose was dual purpose. I wanted primarily to see the back roads and at the same time, find a route that would be convenient to those living near The Woodlands. So first I will share the photos and then show you the route.  It is highly recommended that you view at least some of these fully by clicking on them.
Fields of yellow for a Texas fellow
Field of Indian Paintbrush
Taking farm to market roads in Texas is part of the story. Back roads is the rest. Most of the photos seen in these photographs were taken on FM roads, but some of them are on county, local or state roads. I like the county roads, but it is often a gamble on them. You may find wildflowers and you might not!
We find Bluebonnets and their companions along fence lines, in open pasture, along roads and just about anywhere there is sun. Texas has lots of barbed wire where the bonnets flourish. 

Horses will be seen grazing among wildflowers all over  the state.
I could not resist stopping at this location between The Woodlands and Brenham to watch the horses grazing. They were so peaceful and the flowers gave off a great scent.
A dirt county road in the hills close to Brenham

Butterflies are incredible among the wildflowers. 
One question people may have is - since there is so much nectar, are all local species out in the wildflowers? The answer is a definitive "no". Butterflies have their specific native host plants that they must have for their eggs and caterpillars to feed. Therefore, many are not out there at this time of the year. Some plants are not even available at this time of the year and those butterflies will not be found in the wildflowers. In fact, most species will not be found in road side wildflowers. Some however are tremendously common.

One of my favorite places between Brenham and The Woodlands
I discovered this property along the road. Two old barns were nestled in the brush with a beautiful field of wildflower mix in front of them. I got only a glimpse of this from the road and had to be cut up by briars, stung by ants and risked a snake bite to be able to take this photo. The gold blooms on some of the trees created such a contrast in the image that I had to compose some photos with them included.  
Ponds added to the feast of my eyes in this journey
Finding fields of predominant wildflower species next to water was not easy, but I did find three locations, such as this one having the Indian Paintbrush as the predominant wildflower.
In Texas, we have several yellow wildflowers. 
Usually we see yellow wildflowers in the month of May in Central Texas, earlier here, after the Bluebonnets have bloomed out. This year, we are seeing a variety of wildflowers with the Bluebonnets, more than normal because of the mild winter, early Spring and rightly timed rains.

Indian Paintbrush for the ladies  

Near Hempstead, Texas on state highway 290

Off the beaten path, east of Brenham off of H 290  
The gentleman who lives  in this house (and in this photo) was kind enough to discuss these flowers with me. They have been there for as long as he can recall, before he purchased the land to build. He lets the plants seed every year. That is the down side as he explained it. He cannot mow or groom the yard until all the wildflowers have finished their seeding in May or early June. However, the up-side is all worth it. He gets to soak all this in every day when he arrives from work and the aroma of "country" is extremely soothing and refreshing every day. He has to do absolutely no reseeding at all.    

More Paintbrush

Child's playground - straight out of a dream

Nothing like Texas Bluebonnets!
So what was the route?  I started my plan with the basic Brenham wildflower trail. There is an East and West part. From The Woodlands, I traveled on FM 1488 to Fields Store, then up FM 362, at which I found my first Bluebonnets. It must have taken me 3 hours to get to the park on the Brazos River. To me, I had found the perfect place to start my journey. As I encountered county and local roads, I turned off on some to search for wildflowers.  CR 325 was one I enjoyed. Then I followed FM 2 to highway 6 and then on to Navasota and then to Washington on the Brazos Park via FM 105, were I ate a sack lunch.  Then on to FM 390 N. I also traveled the west loop of the trail, but I do not recommend that section of the trail. I also stopped at a couple of places on H 290 from Brenham as I traveled to Austin. Why not take the family out on a Sunday afternoon drive? It is only 30-40 minutes away from The Woodlands.

Enjoy Texas! Enjoy our native wildflowers!