As a long time resident of the Dallas / Fort Worth area I’ve long been aware of a pair of fluttering orange and black wings that are seen during two key times throughout the year: Spring and Fall. The Monarch Butterfly winters in Mexico, but when temperatures rise in the Spring they begin their northern journey into the United States and the Southern most portions of Canada.
In Autumn, the butterflies migrate south so they can spend the winter in Mexico.
Their Winter nest is so laden with butterflies, it’s as if the trees in lieu of leaves have butterflies instead. Truly it’s a marvel. Scientists estimate that 6 out of every 10 butterflies die from starvation en route due to the loss of native habitat and native wildflowers that produce sustaining nectar. Here’s a short video on how you can help to preserve this annual wonder, plus some amazing photos of the Mexican winter home. Watch it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuMASSrli9A
There’s even a research site trying to tag and track them to more thoroughly map their migration patterns and routes over at MonarchWatch.org. Thanks to them you can get an idea of their Spring and Fall migration maps as seen above.
It’s so amazing how in a period of 4-6 weeks the wildflowers can change so drastically in the Texas Hill Country. Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes have faded, and now up comes other flowers like Indian Blankets (aka Firewheels), thistles, Horsemint (aka Bee Balm) and Mexican Hats (a type of coneflower) . I found this field June 8, 2016 along 71 just west of Spicewood and Cypress Creek. I stopped off and from the fence was taking pictures of the field, when I heard an engine idling behind me, the owner had come home from one of his other fields they farmed. The farm has been in the family since the 1800s, and the farmer couldn’t remember a year where the field was so overtaken by the horsemint. He even insisted my friends and I go home with some.
Texas has more than 5,000 flowering plants native to the Lone Star State, across a vast multitude of environs, and elevations. And every Spring the display most Texans wait for is when the treasure trove of Bluebonnets come out to play, sometimes offering spectacular fields of Bluebonnets that are more than a mile long.
I’m anxiously following the wildflower reports from well regarded institutions like the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin and other obsessed outlets so I can plan this year’s photographic expedition throughout the state. Last year I ranged across the Texas Hill Country finding displays from Ennis, the Brenham/Independence area, Fredericksburg, Pontotoc and other areas in the Llano/Mason area.
Bluebonnets while typically blue, also have a couple of other (albeit it rarer) varieties. Typically they grow to about a foot in height, but the variety found only in Big Bend National park can grow to nearly 3 feet tall. Here are just a few of the bluebonnets I captured in 2016.
One of my favorite spots to stop in the Texas Hillcountry during wildflower season is Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas. They’re part event venue, part gift shop, part nursery, and part commercial grower of wildflowers. You’re always guaranteed some wildflower pictures here during the season, and they have some fields boxed in with walking paths beside them. Depending on when you stop by for a visit, you can be greeted with an array of poppies, bluebonnets, horsemint, sunflowers, black eyed susans and so much more! Populated with all sorts of wildflowers you can also find an array of pollinators on site from bees, butterflies, dragonflies and birds (including hummingbirds).
Nearby are an array of wineries, and I like to pop over to Das Peach Haus as it has some lovely space between the store front and the orchards used for event space including a pond and water lilies, some beautiful piney woods. Not to mention some great wines and peaches!