Hill Country: Wildflower Diversity of Color
County RD in SW San Saba County - 4/17/2017
Trip Date: 4/17/2017
Routes: FM-2005, FM-501, Texas 71, CR-409, Texas 16, other unnamed county roads
Counties: Hamilton, Mills, San Saba, McCulloch, Mason, Llano. Gillespie
Short Story: Overall green is the dominate color, but red and yellow is breaking through the green to paint the roadsides and some fields. I did not see evidence that many fields will turn red with firewheels, but some roadsides already are. Several fields are partially to solidly covered with yellow probably from brown bitterweed. There are still some bluebonnets out there, but the ones along paved roads are beyond peak.
Full Story: I took the backway home from Dallas to check on how the wildflowers were doing in the Hill Country. I also wanted to see if perhaps some areas north of the Hill Country might have fared better this year. Overall, the same general theme is what I saw – green, greenly greenery! There are so many really lovely sceneries with lush shade of green flowing over hills and down through valleys. Even the trees look so green and healthy. You know that typical pastoral scene with the cows grazing in the green grass pastures lined with tree covered hills? I saw that scene repeated with variations all along the route I took. It really is quite beautifully green out there.
The route I took did have some wildflowers here and there with a few really nice colorful displays. There is a diversity of wildflower color sprinkled throughout the Hill Country with a few large areas covered with red or yellow. Firewheels (Gaillardia pulchella) have replaced most of the bluebonnets along the roadsides and brown bitterweed (Helenium amarum var. badium) is attempting to cover fields in the San Saba and Llano Counties.
I also found some bluebonnets still in bloom along some roads, especially the back-county roads. I did not find any field covered with bluebonnets, but I did come across several fields with stretches of bluebonnets. The bluebonnets still looked good in the fields and along the county roads. Those bluebonnets along any of the paved roads are past peak with many more seedpods than blooms.
Along two different county roads I came across areas covered with rainbow of wildflower colors. I love to find these locations especially along quiet lonely county roads. You can park the car and walk up and down the road and get tight shots and close-up shots with ease. Monday the sky was overcast to partly cloudy and the wind was calm to a light breeze. It was a paradise of conditions for the camera and the soul.
The other thing I notice is how close we came to having a truly once-in-a-lifetime bluebonnet season in several locations that have not had one in years. I saw roadside bluebonnets north of San Saba along Texas 16 and fields in McCulloch County that would have been beyond awesome, if only… I guess that is the other theme that was running through my mind - this was the season that almost was, but fell short. Yet with just a little effort, there are enough really nice wildflower scenes to keep a wildflower enthusiast busy for hours.
Texas 71 and Texas 16: It is easy to find long solid stretches of firewheels along both of these popular wildflower routes. The best I saw was Texas 71 from Fredonia to just beyond Valley Springs. I did not travel 16 from Cherokee to Llano, but this usually have some nice scenes.
RR-501: Some spots with a few bluebonnets fading fast, firewheels, and prairie paintbrush. The huge fields of bluebonnets north of Pontotoc have faded with only a hint of blue now.
Texas 71 at Voca: There is roadside park just north of Voca on Texas 71. The entire park is covered with firewheels and some bluebonnets. Side rant: This is how all roadside parks, rest areas and picnic areas in Texas should be. Too often what I find is nothing but golf-course green manicured grass. Every public rest type area along any road in Texas needs to highlight our native plants including wildflowers, grasses and trees. We should not be using our tax dollars to plant and maintain any non-native plants and grasses on public grounds. Every roadside rest area of any type should have plants for monarch migration. Master Naturalist and Texas Native Plant Societies could be given grants to help sponsor rest areas within their jurisdictions. I know some already do this.
Roadside Park along Texas 71 north of Voca - 4/17/2017
CR-409: There is a huge field of yellow from brown bitterweed right at the corner of CR-409 and 71 at Valley Spring. This is also one of the locations with a diversity of color. (Note: I am listing this one county road, because this section does not go through a working ranch.)
Firewheels and Greenthread along CR-409 at Valley Spring
FM-2005 from Hamilton to Goldthwaite: Several spots along this route with a variety of wildflowers. There are likely other Farm-to-Market and Ranch Roads with similar coverage.
Old San Antonio RD from US 290: Only reason I am listing this is because I found some nice spots with mealy blue sage and this road is very scenic. The Old San Antonio RD (also known as Old #9) goes by an old 1800s restored farm, and Old Tunnel State Park. At Old Tunnel State Park, there is an awesome view of the valley below.
Mealy Blue Sage along Old San Antonio RD - 4/17/2017