Wildflowers


After the big freeze, everything shriveled, turned brown and died. In the weeks that followed the big Texas freeze of 2021, all the shrubs, the hedges and flowers wilted. Some people left them as is for a time, hoping they'd grow back, show signs of life, sprout green. But eventually, everyone cut their plants back to the stems. For a fairly urban island, Galveston has always been green and lush, but now, I'd walk around and see only stumps in plant beds that had once been overflowing and the stumpy stocks of palm trees that used to tower.

But just a few days later, I started seeing the green. By the church, thick, green shoots sprouted where the bushes had withered away. In the plant beds at the downtown coffee shop, green leaves are poking through the bare plant beds that used to be thickets of practically tropical plants.

And I'm starting to see bluebonnets along the highway, the undisputed sign that Texas spring has arrived. I always loved the blue and white lupines growing up. They were something unique to Texas and beloved by all. They united Texans in their joy and beauty. And I loved the Tomie dePaola book about the flower's origin legend, of how a Comanche girl sacrificed her doll to end a long drought and the bluebonnets became her reward.

Springtime was always my favorite growing up in the Hill Country because of the wild flowers. By mid- to late-March, the grass along the sides of the highways erupted yellow and pink and red with scarlet Indian paintbrushes, the colorful Mexican hats, delicate, pink primrose and clumps of ox-eye daisies. I loved waiting for the bus during the spring and inhaling the deep perfume of wafting off the magenta dogwood trees and the feint aromas of the peach blossoms. After a particularly heavy rain, you'd be rewarded with two days of rain lilies, ephemeral blossoms that sprouted up overnight and disappeared just as quickly like ghosts, without sign of them left behind.

It's a way of life. Every Texas kids has pictures of themselves in some Easter-type outfit in the middle of a thicket of bluebonnets. Mine included floral hats with matching dresses.

In high school, I had a project that required me to pick, press, and identify 30 different types of Texas wildflowers. I spent that spring tramping across highways in search of pointy crow poison, dainty phlox, Texas thistles and the alien-looking antelope horn.

I think my father ended up getting more invested in the project than I did, though I loved it. While we were camping one weekend, he practically leaned off the side of a cliff trying to saw a red cactus blossom off the prickly.

"Dad," I cried. "It's fine. I don't need to have that flower."

He ended up getting it for me, though I can't remember if it made it into the final book.

The blankets of flowers covering the highways don't last for long - six weeks, maybe eight. But the summer flowers, though fewer, always linger throughout the heat.

The spring flowers always come back, though, and it's nice to see Galveston's greenery will too.

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