Ennis Bluebonnet Trails

One of Texas' most notable wildflowers, and the state flower, is Lupinus texensis, or Texas Bluebonnet, and there is a festival centered around this flower over one weekend in April each year in Ennis, Texas, a community about 30 miles south of Dallas. The city lies in a region known as the Blackland Prairie, a fertile stretch of land roughly following the Interstate 35 corridor from San Antonio northward to the Red River. Many other wildflowers accompany the Bluebonnets on these rolling hills.

This year seemed to be a "down year" for Bluebonnets. The propensity of the blooms varies from year to year and is largely unexplainable. We did have a very mild winter with temperatures rarely dipping below freezing and normal precipitation levels. It appeared that in many locations the stands of grass had choked out the wildflowers. All of these photographs were taken along road right-of-ways.

 Sisyrinchium angustifolium, Blue Eyed Grass

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, Blue Eyed Grass

 Sisyrinchium angustifolium, Blue Eyed Grass

Sisyrinchium angustifolium, Blue Eyed Grass

Blue Eyed Grass grows much like a small Lily with parallel-arranged leaves and only blooming for a few weeks in the spring. The plant grows not much taller than 12 inches and has the distinctive eye. 

 Erigeron annuus, Daisy Fleabane

Erigeron annuus, Daisy Fleabane

 Erigeron annuus, Daisy Fleabane

Erigeron annuus, Daisy Fleabane

There are many species of Fleabane found in Texas. The name originated of the thought that the dried flowers would be a good repellant for fleas. 

 Tradescantia sp., Spiderwort

Tradescantia sp., Spiderwort

Spiderwort grows in most of Texas in slightly different forms and shades of blue and purple. I can't properly identify this specific species, but I was especially attracted to the blue hue. 

 Callirhoe involucrata, Winecup

Callirhoe involucrata, Winecup

The hirsute bracts and sepals gave this Winecup away as the species involucrata. It looks as though pollinators have been busy with the pollen found in this flower. 

 Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

Primroses are most showy this year and the Showy Primrose is no exception. This will be our first example of how much flower color variations exist between colonies of the same species. Most commonly, O. speciosa is found in shades of pink, but this stand was nearly pure white. 

 Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

Pink veins are prominent in the petals of some.

 Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

 Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

And some were visited by pollinators. 

 Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

 Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

Oenothera speciosa, Showy Primrose

This specimen was particularly pink, the darkest shade noticed this day. 

 Lindheimera texana, Texas Yellow Star

Lindheimera texana, Texas Yellow Star

Texas Yellow Star, named for its signature 5-petal flower (and sometimes 4), is a recognizable annual in much of Texas, growing to nearly 2 feet in height. I have also documented this species along Slaughter Creek

 Gaura coccinea, Scarlet Gaura

Gaura coccinea, Scarlet Gaura

The flowers of this Gaura appear to have seen better days. The open flowers set at the ends of long, pliable stems allow them to dance in the wind like butterflies. This plant is quite common in the retail nursery industry, but usually in more substantial hybrid forms.

 Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

Bluebonnet is another wildflower with varying shades of petal color between colonies. These specimens were some of the darkest indigo blue observed.

 Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

 Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

 Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

 Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

 Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

The bright, white spots in the banner of the floret signal to the pollinators that pollen is in abundance, but as the flower ages, these white spots turn to red. This tells the pollinators that the ability of the flower to fertilize has diminished and that the flower isn't worth visiting. This benefits the bees, saving them energy, and also allowing the species to further its genetic line in the most efficient and effective manner. 

 Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

These examples were nearly pure white and fascinating. 

 Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

Lupinus texensis, Texas Bluebonnet

 Castilleja indivisa, Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja indivisa, Indian Paintbrush

 Castilleja indivisa, Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja indivisa, Indian Paintbrush

It seems that when Bluebonnets have a diminished year, Paintbrush puts on an exceptional show. It's not really determined what causes one to perform better than the other, but the polarity exists mostly because of the parasitic nature of Castilleja. The Paintbrush roots penetrate the roots of neighboring species and rob the nutrients. 

 Castilleja indivisa, Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja indivisa, Indian Paintbrush

Yet another color variation of another species. The bumblebees were happy with bouncing from one flower to another.

 Castilleja indivisa, Indian Paintbrush

Castilleja indivisa, Indian Paintbrush

 Asclepias oenotheroides, Zizotes Milkweed

Asclepias oenotheroides, Zizotes Milkweed

There were assuredly more species around, but these 2 Milkweeds were the ones spotted. Above, Zizotes Milkweed displays pink veins in its leaves and was just beginning to bud. I chronicled this species in Mason. Below is Antelope Horns Milkweed, named after the shape of its leaves. Luckily a few of the blooms were opening, displaying their mesmerizing shape. I have also seen this species on Cement Mountain and the dried seed pods at Oak Point

 Asclepias asperula, Antelope Horns Milkweed

Asclepias asperula, Antelope Horns Milkweed

 Bellardia trixago, Bellardia

Bellardia trixago, Bellardia

 Bellardia trixago, Bellardia

Bellardia trixago, Bellardia

Bellardia resembles a member of the Mint family, but it actually belongs to Orobanchaceae. It is an introduced species from the Mediterranean and grows in the Americas in similar climates of Texas, California, and Chile. 

 Trifolium incarnatum, Crimson Clover

Trifolium incarnatum, Crimson Clover

 Trifolium incarnatum, Crimson Clover

Trifolium incarnatum, Crimson Clover

Another introduced species, but intentionally for livestock forage, Crimson Clover puts on a beautiful display of straw-like flowers. It is native to most of Europe and used as a cut crop that is baled as hay. This field was absolutely full. 

 Rubus trivialis, Dewberry

Rubus trivialis, Dewberry

Dewberry puts on the simple, white flowers before giving way to tasty fruit resembling blackberries. They are usually found in the understory of shrubs or taller grasses. I have documented this species along Slaughter Creek

 Vicia dasycarpa, Winter Vetch

Vicia dasycarpa, Winter Vetch

Vicia is another European native that is typically grown as a nitrogen-fixer in no-till farming. Unfortunately, the seed can tend to shatter early and remain as a noxious weed later in the season. It is noticed that the vining, mounding quality is sometimes a nuisance, as well.

A new-born calf amongst wildflowers, while cliche, is still fun.