|Photo Courtesy of Lance Jones|
Every turn opens a new view on the trails this month as the wildflowers are in their full glory. Mealy blue sage and thistles cover the meadow below Summit Ridge on Dante’s Trail in the Purgatory Creek Natural Area. Yarrow, bluebonnets and thistles are abundant at the Spring Lake Preserve. Blanco Shoals, Schulle Canyon and Ringtail Ridge Natural Areas all are overrun with bastard cabbage reaching heights of five and six feet topped with tiny yellow flowers.
But it is the thistle that truly amazes. Several years ago, after a particularly wet winter, Tex’s Trail at Ringtail Ridge was bordered by the tall Texas native. Butterflies and finches really enjoyed the nectar and seed respectively. The abundance of thistle this year has drawn comments on the Hays County Master Naturalist forum.
A local Master Naturalist noted noted “Texas Thistle is a biennial. It is my working hypothesis that last year’s drought followed by a wet winter has given annuals and biennials a window of opportunity to flourish and rebuild their seed bank investment. I would be very surprised to see Texas thistle and the other currently abundant annuals/biennials flourish as well in a ‘normal’ year. In fact, they have not had such a good year while we have owned this property. And I suspect they may not do so well for many years to come. But the seeds that became this year’s abundant Texas thistle didn’t just appear from nowhere. They were already here waiting for the right conditions. And this year’s deposit in the seed bank is likely to wait a number of years for the right conditions to occur again.”
Hopefully the rains will return this month as all the natural areas are extremely dry and the danger of fire is real. Now is a good time to hike and bike the trails with the views, be mindful of the bugs, most of them beneficial, and spend some time with nature.