The internet and emails from people who have driven downstate have been full of lovely pictures of Texas Bluebonnets this year. After last year’s scant rainfall, the flower show seemed to be thick and beautiful everywhere, much to the delight of citizens and tourists alike.
Bluebonnets, however, do not grow wild in the part of Texas where we live. I’ve never been quite sure if the lack is due to altitude (about 4000 ft.) or latitude or the combination of both. They can be cultivated, but wildflowers that look so lovely in abundance in a field tend to look skimpy and straggly as specimen plants in a planter.
This year has been the most severe drought ever recorded for us, even more severe than the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Much of our area passed from brown to gray awhile back. There have been a few areas that have gotten just a little bit of rain, but we have had only a few hundredths of an inch. On the road to Amarillo last weekend, I saw something unusual on a hillside that had a little bit of rainfall.
See the flowers sticking up? That is yucca. Yucca usually produces flowers on plants more mature than these, the ball-like clusters of spiny leaves that you see in pictures of xeriscaped lawns. The flowers are usually on long stalks, with at least two to three feet between flower cluster and bush. These plants are very small, and the flowers are thick all over the pasture, with the blooms at ground level. I suspect that this is Mother Nature’s desperate bid to reproduce in spite of or because of the drought. Some of the abundance may also be because no one is grazing cattle right now, although I don’t remember seeing many cattle on this slope in the past.
I remember some old timers who grew up in the Northern Panhandle during the Great Depression talking about gathering, cooking, and eating the yucca blossoms during that time. When I heard those stories, I always thought it would be a rather scant meal because it is usually a long way between blossoms around here, but if the plants grew like this during that drought, the food source would have been more abundant than I thought. They are supposed to be tasty. Why didn’t I try to gather some? This is Texas and that is fenced land. Even if I wanted to try to struggle my way through a 4-strand barbed wire* fence, you just don’t go on someone else’s fenced property without permission.
*correct local pronunciation--"bob wahr"