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March 28, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Weather Hating on Wildflowers?

I was in Katy, TX just the other day and as I was getting on the interstate I noticed all of the beautiful bluebonnets lining some of the banks under the overpasses. You might not know this but the bluebonnet is the state flower of Texas. These are annual flowers that usually blossom towards the end of March and continue to bloom through mid-May. Mid-April is usually when they are at their peak blooming stage.

Bluebonnets in Texas. Image: Wikipedia

Even though the bluebonnets I saw over the weekend were beautiful, due to the lack of rainfall across Texas during the growing season there might not be as many wildflowers this year as we’re used to seeing. At the DFW Airport since January 1st they’ve only received 2.53 inches of rain. Typically they have almost 7 inches by now which puts them at a 4.44 inch rainfall deficit. In Houston, we’ve received 6.30 inches of rain but we still have a deficit of 3.28 inches. The drought, which I talked about in Friday’s post, is predicted to persist through spring months and wildfires will increasingly become a threat, especially when the winds are high and the humidity is low. Temperatures are also expected to remain above average from April through June across much of the southern U.S.

Spring temperature outlook across the Lower 48. Image: ImpactWeather

The long range temperature outlook calls for above normal temperatures across the Central and Southern Rockies eastward across the Central and Southern Plains to the Lower Mississippi Valley. Farther north, below normal temperatures are expected across the Pacific Northwest, Northern Plains and parts of the Northeast. Elsewhere, near normal temperatures are expected across much of the southeastern U.S. Temperatures are forecast to average from 2 to 4F above normal over the Rockies and from 1 to 3F above normal from Kansas and Texas eastward across Louisiana and Mississippi. Farther north temperatures are forecast to average from 1 to 3F below normal over the northern part of the U.S.

 Spring precipitation outlook across the Lower 48. Image: ImpactWeather

The spring precipitation outlook calls for below normal precipitation across much of the Gulf Coast and Deep South, parts of the Northeastern U.S. and across much of the southwestern U.S. from California to Arizona. Above normal precipitation is now forecast from north Texas and Oklahoma eastward to the Ohio Valley as several cold fronts stall out across this region resulting in higher than normal rainfall. Farther north, above normal rainfall is also expected across the Northern Plains and Pacific Northwest. Elsewhere, near normal precipitation is expected across a large part of the Rockies and from the Upper Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes.

On a brighter note, there have been some plants with beautiful flowers that have started blooming. The agarita in San Marcos, Mexican plum trees along the San Marcos River and Texas redbud in Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Mexican plum trees. Image:

Texas redbud. Image:

In 1982, Lady Bird Johnson (former First Lady of the U.S. and native Texan born in Karnack) and Helen Hayes (actress) founded the National Wildflower Research Center, now known as the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, to protect and preserve North America’s native plants and natural landscapes. The center is located in Austin and displays the native plants of the Central Texas Hill Country, South and West Texas, while the Plant Conservation Program protects the ecological heritage of Texas by conserving its rare and endangered flora. In addition to founding the Wildlife Center, Lady Bird also promoted the Highway Beautification Act, which was nicknamed “Lady Bird’s Bill” which sought to beautify the nation’s highway system by limiting billboards and by seeding wildflowers in roadside areas.

Lady Bird Johnson. Image:

Lady Bird Johnson is often the person people think of as the reason we see wildflowers blooming along the nation’s highways.

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