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Out in the Yard: Wildflowers in Southeast Texas

We are several weeks into fall now and the temperatures are giving us a little break from the summer heat but I am getting depressed. I like the cooler weather but fall and winter are not my favorite times of the year. In a few weeks, it will be dark at 6 p.m. and this leaves me little time to do much work outside where I like unwind after work. What will I do to make it through the next five months?

I am preparing, in my mind, to have a wonderful spring and early summer next year.  I live on a 22-acre farm. Of those, we have the house, gardens, and animals on five acres. Next to that block is a pipeline right-of-way and then out from that is future pasture land. Since the right-of-way cannot have anything built on it, it is kind of in limbo and does not have a real purpose for our farm. In thinking about this, I thought why not create a purpose for that strip? I am doing that right now by planting wildflowers next week.

Texas has a great variety of beautiful wildflowers that grow all across the state. Everyone knows about bluebonnets in the hill country and, each summer, we see Indian paintbrushes, brown-eyed Susan, and Mexican hat along IH-10. My pastureland is very grown-over with tall brush but we had patches of Texas thistle, fleabane, blue eyed grass, and Texas Bluebell.

Currently the bees are hitting the Gray Goldenrod and the butterflies are fluttering around multitudes of a morning glory-looking flowers that I think might be Pink Evening Primrose. It opens each morning with a beautiful pink/light purple color and closes up tight in the afternoon.

We also have what looks like yellow Sneezeweed. I found a great site if you are interested in wildflowers, www.wildflower.org. It is connected to The University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. I would love to go there one day and spend some time.

While on the site I found the Yellow sneezewood – Helenium amarum and found that the genus is thought to have been named by Linnaeus for Helen of Troy. The legend is that the flowers sprung up from the ground where her tears fell.

Wildflowers come back each year and have for centuries. It is interesting to see how some of them were incorporated into peoples’ lives, whether they were in legends, stories, medicinal, or just appreciated for their beauty.

Think back over the last centuries and how many moms had their day brightened by their kids running in with a handful of wildflowers and yelling ‘Your favorite flower is now blooming and I picked them just for you’?

What can you do to expose your kids to that kind of wonder and joy? Why not try and plant a few wildflowers in a remote location, in your yard or vacant lot nearby.

If you have any questions gardening in general, you can reach Jefferson County Master Gardener Tim Schreck at timothyrschreck@gmail.com or call Texas AgriLife Extension at 409-835-8461.