In one of warmest years ever, Texas wildflower season has come early


Highlights

The relatively rainy 2016 and warm winter have triggered an early wildflower season, according to experts.

Camp Mabry is experiencing its fourth-warmest winter on record, meteorologist Bob Rose says.

Bluebonnets are already beginning to bloom — more than a month ahead of the typical April flowering season — during what’s turning into one of Austin’s warmest winters on record.

The relatively rainy 2016 and warm winter have triggered an early wildflower season, according to experts at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The blooming purple spiderworts near Lake Austin, which will probably be joined shortly by many other Central Texas wildflowers, are the latest sign that winter might have already come and gone.

“Wildflower season is taking off faster than you expect,” said Andrea DeLong-Amaya, the center’s director of horticulture.

For more of Marty Toohey’s science and weather stories, follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

The wildflowers could be killed if a cold snap blows through and drops temperatures to near freezing, of course. But some forecasters say that risk is increasingly unlikely.

The last freeze was in early January. And of the 53 days since 2017 started, 35 have topped at least 70 degrees at Camp Mabry. Wednesday, whose daytime high was expected to be around 86, will be nearly 20 degrees warmer than the norm of 67 degrees. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s three-month forecast also predicts warmer than average weather for Central Texas.

RELATED: 8 tips for taking better bluebonnet pictures

“The perception that this February’s weather has been unusually mild is quite accurate,” said Bob Rose, a meteorologist with the Lower Colorado River Authority. He said the period from Feb. 1 to Feb. 20 has been the warmest on record in Austin. The average temperature has been 9.3 degrees above normal at Central Austin’s weather station at Camp Mabry, and 11.9 degrees warmer than normal at the city’s other official weather station at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

“With no real cold weather expected over the next week, I don’t expect these rankings to change much by month’s end,” Rose said. “We are definitely on pace for one of the warmest, if not the warmest, February on record.”

Stretch that time period out to the entire winter to date (which includes parts of December), and Camp Mabry is experiencing its fourth-warmest winter on record. The airport is going through its second-warmest winter on record, Rose said.

According to the Wildflower Center, pink evening primrose — aka buttercups — could be in for a big year, after having bloomed inconsistently during the past several years, “sometimes sparsely dotting roadsides and other times strikingly dominating great patches from the airport through the Hill Country.”

“Other plants just beginning to put on a preseason show include elbow bush (Forestiera pubescens), golden groundsel (Packera obovata) and agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata),” according to the center. It also noted that redbuds are beginning to produce pink blossoms overhead.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Murder trial begins for man suspected of beating boyfriend and dog
Murder trial begins for man suspected of beating boyfriend and dog

A Travis County murder trial begins Tuesday for a man who is accused of beating his boyfriend and choking his boyfriend’s dog after a night of drinking in downtown Austin in July 2015 Bryan Canchola, 22, is charged with killing Stephen Sylvester after an argument in an apartment they shared near the University of Texas campus. He faces a...
FORECAST: Coldest morning in months starts gorgeous Tuesday, rain possible by Friday
FORECAST: Coldest morning in months starts gorgeous Tuesday, rain possible by Friday

Tuesday forecast for Austin: It’s the sort of weather that would make a Miami mobster from a Elmore Leonard novel want his leather jacket: Chilly outside this morning, before warming up to near 80 degrees for a high this afternoon.  In short, it’ll be another gorgeous day — and week — throughout Central Texas, according...
Report: Texas water supplies in farm country pose cancer risks

Researchers with a nonprofit environmental advocacy group warn that high levels of contaminants in drinking water supplies in rural areas of Texas — including Central Texas — and across the country increase risks of cancer and birth defects, according to a report released Tuesday. The Environmental Working Group says drinking water in farm...
Police: Austin man breaks jaw of person he wrongly thought he knew
Police: Austin man breaks jaw of person he wrongly thought he knew

An Austin man is accused of breaking the jaw of another man who he incorrectly thought he knew, an arrest affidavit said. Bryan Griffin, 44, was charged with aggravated assault, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Griffin walked into a Walgreens at 10600 W. Parmer Lane on Sept. 29 and saw a man standing at a register, the...
Former Austin broadcaster, lawmaker remembered for his talents, charm
Former Austin broadcaster, lawmaker remembered for his talents, charm

Marvin “Dan” Love, an Austin broadcasting pioneer and former city lawmaker, died Friday. He was 88. Love became a newscaster for KTBC-TV (also known as Fox 7 Austin) and later ran KHFI-TV (now known as KXAN) as its general manager from 1965 to 1974. He was elected to the Austin City Council in 1971 and re-elected in 1973, serving as mayor...
More Stories