May 5, 2011
Where Bluebonnets Abound - Celebrating America's Wildflowers
The month of May reminds me of springtime back home, and by back home I mean Texas.
I actually only lived there for a little over a decade. However, the youngest two of my family were the only ones born there, and my parents still live there. Over time we had gradually beome "native Texans." And every year in May we would drive out to the country, pull off to the side of the road, and enter the great blue sea of bluebonnets for our family pictures.
"No self-respectin' Texan passes up a photo-op with the bluebonnets." (A comment my mother was known to make every year.)
And it was true! Every spring we would see others among the state's official wildflower posing in front of cameras. The side of the road usually looked like a parking lot with everyone pulled over. And the amazing thing was, we never accidentally got anyone else in our shots! The fields where the bluebonnets grew were always so huge everyone was able to have their own space!
I never realized how unique our situation was with an entire state celebrating this special wildflower. After I moved away from Texas I remember visiting a friend where I currently live - a friend that had never lived in Texas. And as I was going through her family's photo album that they gave me to look at I asked, "Where's your pictures with your state's wildflower?"
They looked at me as if I had just asked them if I could pee on their carpet.
So I explained... that families in Texas anually take photos with our bluebonnets,... that whenever I went to my friends' houses there were always framed pictures of children surrounded by bluebonnets hanging on the walls or sitting on shelves,... that my mom had an album labeled "bluebonnets only."
"Really? We never do that," I was told. Then they asked, "We have a state wildflower?"
Very soon after that I realized it's practically a "Texas only" thing - which is sad.
My family and I keep the wildflower tradition alive every May by visiting our current state's wildflower: the black-eyed susan.
This week we celebrate nature's bounty of wildflowers across the nation for National Wildflower Week.
Across the nation, wildflowers growing beside highways, in gardens and elsewhere are valued for their natural beauty. As Lady Bird Johnson (founder of National Wildflower Week) once said, "These and other native plants give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours."
National Wildflower Week aims not only to highlight wildflowers' beauty, but to encourage citizens to understand their value and take steps to protect them. Wildflowers and native plants help conserve water, reduce mowing costs, provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other wildlife and protect the soil from erosion. In addition, native plants often require less resources to maintain than plants that aren't native to a region.
But many wildflowers nationally are in danger from habitat loss, non-native plants that grow aggressively and compete for resources (called invasive plants) among other factors.
How do I celebrate National Wildflower Week?
Participate in a local event.
Chances are, there is a wildflower event happening in your neighborhood. Visit the National Organizations Directory to find a native plant society, conservation group, botanical garden or other plant related organizations where you live.
Wildflower walks and garden visits.
Explore for yourself. Bring a field guide. Visit a sanctuary, state or local park, national forest or refuge, public or private garden, and other locations to experience the joy and beauty of wildflowers.
Wildflower beautifation projects.
Introduce native wildflowers along roadsides, in parks, and around churches, schools, and other public and private buildings. Request government and private support for such projects. Encourage local nurseries and garden centers to stock native plants and seeds.
The national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges, grasslands, and millions of acres of public lands are truly America's wildflower gardens. Celebrating Wildflowers is a website that promotes the many programs featuring the important role that the nations's public lands, over 630 million acres, play in providing diverse habitats for much of America's flora.
I'm a Master Naturalist and an outdoor enthusiast -- mostly kayaking, and I live on a Peninsula in the Chesapeake Bay. I'm the author of The Nature Fan, Nature Fan Activists, Green Earth Almanac, and Amanda's Geographic. Formerly, I ran the nationally syndicated column "National Green Activism" for The Examiner, and I was a key factor in the success of many campaigns. Make sure you don't miss a post, and subscribe by email! Thanks for reading.