Keep your eyes peeled on the Texas highways and open fields, because wildflowers will be here before you know it. According to the 2017 Wildflower Forecast from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Texas' stunning wildflower season may start earlier and last longer this year.
"Hold onto your hat and fasten your seatbelt," said Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture, in the report. "Wildflower season is taking off faster than you expect."
Blooms usually come in a flash around March and April, but thanks to a warm winter and heavy rain, Texas is already seeing a few buds. At the Wildflower Center, things are looking especially good for bluebonnets and pink evening primroses, which is a strong predictor for the Central Texas area, including Austin.
If 2016 was any indication, Indian paintbrushes may be back in full force. Other flowers on track for a strong season include Carolina jessamine, elbow bush, golden groundsel, agarita, and redbuds.
The warm weather should persist through the spring — the Wildflower Center checked with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — but there's still a chance of cold fronts. As a result, we might lose some wildflower varieties like purple Texas mountain laurel, which is sensitive to colder temperatures.
"When a cold snap happens, bluebonnets are rarely damaged," DeLong-Amaya said. "But when we have warm spells as we have, and plants such as mountain laurels bloom, they are vulnerable to damage during a late hard freeze. We've had freezes in late March and early April, and if things are blooming by then, we can lose a lot of flowers for the season."
If you're trying to cultivate your own wildflowers, it's not too late to get in on the game. Sure, the warmer weather helps, but soil management is key.
"Generally speaking, spring-blooming annual wildflowers are encouraged by grazing and mowing because the competition from perennials and grasses is knocked back," DeLong-Amaya said. "A fire or flood, or even vigorous gardening, can open up space and make it more conducive to annual wildflowers."