After a disappointing year for wildflower gawking in 2011, this spring has turned out to be a photographer's dream.
Across most of Texas, from the Hill Country to the plains to the Piney Woods, bluebonnets, mountain laurels, groundsel and agaritas have all sprouted in vibrant hues. The season promises to keep on giving because many of the state's thousands of wildflower species haven't even begun to pop fully.
"There are seeds sitting out there for years waiting for the right combination of factors," said Steve Chaney, a horticulturalist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Fort Worth. "This is as close to being ideal as you can get."
We owe this year's spectacular crop to a mild winter, lots of sunny but fairly cool days and an abundance of rain -- the opposite of the weather in 2011.
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"Even though the drought is still very real here like in most parts of the state, wildflowers only care about getting rain when they need it to grow and bloom," said Damon Waitt, senior botanist and senior director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.
"In the case of Texas bluebonnets and other early spring bloomers, we're having a good spring because of intermittent rains last fall that continued into recent months," Waitt said. "Native plants are often blooming slightly ahead of schedule because of the warmer-than-average spring."
Anyone driving along the major highways in North Texas can see nature's work. Similarly, areas around Austin, Fredericksburg and Brenham are alive with color.