Writer: Steve Byrns, 325-653-4576, email@example.com
Contact: Dr. Charles “Butch” Taylor, 325-387-3168, firstname.lastname@example.org
SONORA – A Texas AgriLife Researcher, with an eye for the beauty of Texas wildflowers, predicts this to be a banner year across the Edwards Plateau.
“This will be an incredible year for wildflowers,” said Dr. Charles “Butch” Taylor, superintendent of the Texas AgriLife Research Station at Sonora. “Right now we’ve got our Sunday britches on.”
“I’m always amazed at how this region is a country of extremes,” he said. “Last spring at this time there was not a green leaf to be found anywhere, and this spring there is a cascade of green vegetation everywhere you look. I’ve noticed a few blue bonnets starting to develop their flowers, so we should see some blooming start in a couple of weeks here.”
Taylor warned that sometimes with the good comes the bad. Because along with the good provided by blue bonnets, Indian paint brush and other colorful wildflowers, comes acres of sheep-killing bitterweed, one of the region’s top sheep-killers.
“Unfortunately, the conditions that make for an optimum wildflower year are also perfect for growing bitterweed,” Taylor said. “But if you are a rancher grasping for a silver lining, at least bitterweed’s small yellow flowers and lush green toxic foliage will contrast nicely with the more desirable species.”
Taylor said bitterweed or Hymenoxys odorata is widespread across much of the Edwards Platueau. The plant contains a chemical compound called hymenoxon which appears to be addictive to sheep and has killed untold thousands through the years. He said the problem is especially bad during dry winters when little else is green.
“On the brighter side, the recent moisture has also jump-started desirable grazing forbs along with the wildflowers and bitterweed, so we might be safe,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, bitterweed problems usually occur a little later when the ewes start lambing and their energy demand increases with lactation.”
Taylor is optimistic that more rain will grow enough forage in the pastures that livestock and wildlife won’t be tempted to eat toxic plants. He’s also optimistic about the coming spring turkey season.
“It’s still a little early, but I’ve already seen gobblers strutting to gain attention from the turkey hens,” he said. “Last year, I never heard as much as a peep from the boys all season as somehow they knew the dry conditions would prevent the hens from engaging in any romance.
“Bottom line; this should be a good spring for all the critters, both wild and domestic, including the few sheep that are still left after the record-setting drought of 2011. If we continue to receive moisture this spring, it will be one to remember.”