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3/20/2017 2:08 PM
 

MIXED BAG OF BLUE


Blue and White Bluebonnets - The white is a seasonal mutant. It is uncommon but not rare like the pink variety

Trip Date: 3/19/2017

Routes: Blanco RD, Texas 46, FM-3351, Edge Falls RD, FM-473, US 281, US 290, RR-1320, RR-1323, RR-962, RR-3347, Texas 71, Althaus-Davis RD.

Summary: Sunday, 3/19/2017, I took a long drive out to check mainly on areas in northern Blanco County and southeastern Llano County.  This is one area that tended to get good rainfall and had good reports of bluebonnet rosettes. What I found was a mixed bag of blue.  The repeated theme was patches of bluebonnets mixed with some long stretches, but rarely full coverage.  A sub-theme was lots of small underdeveloped plants with tiny blooms along the county roads where I could look into the edges of fields.  This coverage of smaller bluebonnet plants with tiny blooms was prevalent along the county maintained section of Althaus-Davis RD.  I saw signs of this all along several different county roads in the area.  The paved state maintained roads had larger more developed plants with full blooms varying in size from a little smaller than normal to normal size.  The state maintained roads tended to be closer to full bloom, but still the coverage was scattered. Overall, the coverage was better than last year, but less than what I would consider an average season. Parts of Texas 71 look better than I have seen in several years and closer to average. However, there were other parts of 71 that were completely bare.  Another shocker was the coverage of bluebonnets along the medians and shoulders of US 281. The coverage at FM-473 and US 281 was good, but nearly the entire median of the south intersection of US 290 and US 281 was devoid of blooms.  This intersection is one that is usually covered with bluebonnets, but not this year.  Finally, the other widespread issue is green grass and dead vegetation.  If you are a landscape photographer looking for vistas of green grass void of wildflowers, then this is your year!  I saw green grass, even under the dead grass. Grass in most areas rules this season!

What does this mean? 

I think we are definitely seeing a split season brought on by above normal rainfall in September followed by below normal rainfall in October and ending with above normal temperatues and above normal rainfall in November. Paved roads with good drainage have better coverage from road edge down into drainage areas.  The unpaved county roads have good coverage, but the plants are underdeveloped – possibly because they germinated later or just never got the amount rainfall and time to stimulate deeper roots and larger plants.

What can we hope for now? 

I think the paved roads that have good coverage will continue to improve some and peak by the end of March.  I saw a few seedpods, but they were not easy to find yet. I saw many more new buds coming and with some rainfall this week I feel the coverage along Texas 71 will definitely improve.  Based on what Mike Jones reported earlier, I think the roadsides of Texas 16 should also improve some as well. With some more rain and a bit cooler temperatures, we might also see the county roadsides and some fields develop. 

Caveat

The hot and dry weather this week is already stressing the more mature plants.  We need the temperature to return to normal with several more weekly rain events. I saw very little evidence of other wildflowers that I should have seen by now. Without normal temperatures and normal rainfall, I feel the bluebonnet season for the Hill Country will be short and limited and the rest of the spring wildflower show will be in jeopardy.

Road Notes

Blanco RD, FM-1351, Edge Falls RD, FM-473: Mostly void of wildflowers and certainly below average coverage of bluebonnets. These are not known as good wildflower routes in the modern era, but even as late as 10 years ago, they did have some nice displays at times – not this year!

US 281 from FM-473 to Johnson City: Overall below average. Scattered patches of bluebonnets with some stretches.

US 290: from Johnson City to RR-1320: Well below average.  Development has also remove areas and replaced them with concrete or grass.

RR-1320:  WOW! How disappointing this route is now! Lady Bird Johnson would probably have tears in her eyes if she drove this segment of what used to be the Wildflower Loop for Johnson City. It is not just this season. I have seen this segment neglected over the past 13 years.  People used to tell stories of the carpets of blue and the multiple sights of other wildflowers along this route to Sandy.  Now there are just patches here and there of blue with a few other colors thrown in with the green winter grass.  This is sad and I think it speaks to the decline of the entire Wildflower Loop. 

RR-1323 east from Sandy: This part of the Wildflower Loop did have some nice stretches of bluebonnets, but like everywhere else the coverage was not consistent. There are not very many good spots to pull over along this segment of RR-1323, but the views were nice at times – nothing like I have seen in the past.  Another really surprising thing I saw was what road crews had left behind.  For some reason road crews, had come along and trimmed the trees along the fences.  These fences are set well back from the road itself. But what caught my eye was that they left the chips of their efforts on the ground.  Long stretches of RR-1323 and RR-1320 basically had been “mulched” with cedar and oak wood chips.  Seems to me one way you can rid your garden of unwanted plants is to lay down a layer of cedar wood chips as mulch? That pretty much will kill any plant under the mulch.  I am not a botanist, but have had a vegetable and flower garden in the past. I have used cedar chips as mulch to control the spread of unwanted plants and some insects.  

RR-962: More of the same patchy coverage with some stretches.  Some other wildflowers were seen.

RR-3347: RR-3347 is the state maintained portion of the Althaus-Davis RD.  The coverage along this route was close to average, but some spots were better than others.  I spotted one or two places were bluebonnets were blooming beyond the fence-line.


RR-3347 Bluebonnets beyond the fence

Althaus-Davis RD: The good news is that I saw plants along this route. The bad news is the most of the plants were small and only had tiny blooms. The question is whether more will develop. With some more rain and cooler temperatures, perhaps we will see this route with better coverage of bluebonnet blooms. Right now, the route is well below average.


Small bluebonnet plants with ting blooms

Texas 71 from RR-962 to CR-308: This was the best route for overall coverage of bluebonnets.  Some segments were fully covered from road to fence. I saw some evidence of blooms beyond the fences. Sections were covered with bluebonnets for the first time in many years. This route should improve in the next week. Given some rain this week, and it should look good until the end of the Month.  There are not many safe places to pull over along this route.  Based on Mike’s earlier report, Texas 71 should look good from US 281 to Pontotoc and beyond.  Field coverage along this route is still in question.


Texas 71 Roadside Bluebonnets


Texas 71 Roadside Bluebonnets

 

 

 

 
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