In spring, many Texans' fancies turn to flowers, especially the 5,000 species of wildflowers that color landscapes pink, white, red and blue.
While bluebonnets, evening primrose, Indian paintbrush and phlox are beginning to bloom, don't expect a bumper crop this year.
"I would say this year is mediocre," assessed Damon Waitt, senior botanist with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. "This is maybe a 61/2 on a scale of 1 to 10, compared to last year's 9.8."
Fall rains determine how much germination occurs, Waitt said, and spring rains determine how large the plants grow.
"The reports on bluebonnets are patchy, not a whole lot of reports about giant fields of them," Waitt said. "We're not seeing much in the Hill Country or farther West Texas much at all."
Other species such as prairie Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan and plains coreopsis could still produce a good road show this spring if weather patterns cooperate, said Barney Lipscomb of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas in Fort Worth.
"It would bring out some of the other wildflowers and perennial plants," he said. "They need water now to speed up that process."
Every year, the Texas Department of Transportation spreads about 33,000 pounds of wildflower seeds along the state's major highways, said Val Lopez, spokesman with the agency's Fort Worth district.
Then nature is supposed to step in.
"It's only a good-faith effort, and if it doesn't rain, it could make for a grayer spring," Lopez said. "Once wildflowers do bloom, we don't mow them until after they've seeded."
State transportation workers are asked to tell office staff if they spot a major patch of flowers, Lopez said, and the find is put online for sightseers.
"It's the same system we use for road closures," he said.
Fort Worth flower-watchers might want to check out the Botanical Research Institute's living roof over part of its new complex, next to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden off University Drive.
Drive into the facilities' shared parking lot, said botanist Brooke Byerley, and "you can see blue patches of color."
Those would be bluebonnets blooming on the organic roof.
"If you're really determined, you could bring along a pair of binoculars and see something white: our Barbara's buttons, wild foxglove and beardtongue," she said.
Visitors can't tour the facility until its official opening May 21.
"Soon we hope to have wildflowers sprouting in our landscape as well," Byerley said. "We're trying to create little pocket meadows, and we've seeded those. Nothing's out quite yet."
True bluebonnet fans should plan road trips next month to see the flower in an ideal countryside setting, and they don't have to go far.
Ennis will host the Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail from Friday through April 30. The more than 40 miles of mapped roads draw thousands of people every spring.
Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657