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Boerne Chapter

“Texas Native Plant Week” signed by the Governor

Author: Bill Ward

Effective September 1, 2009, there will be an official Texas Native Plant Week, celebrated annually the third week in October. During the 2009 Texas legislative session, Representative Donna Taylor of Austin authored a bill entitled “An Act relating to a recognition week to celebrate Texas native plants” (CSHB 1739). She introduced the bill at the urging of Faye Tessnow of the Highland Lake Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas.

Images scanned from a book. Blue and red wildflowers
Color strip from cover of Carroll Abbott’s 1979 “How to Know and Grow Texas Wildflowers.”

The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Texas’ youngest senator, Glenn Hegar of Katy. It passed unanimously in both houses. Governor Rick Perry signed the bill into law on June 16, 2009.

Faye Tessnow convinced Representative Taylor to introduce this legislation because she felt the official state recognition could serve to emphasize the role of native plants in conservation efforts, support efforts to teach school children about native plants, and make the public aware that native-plant species are threatened by loss of habitat and invasion of exotic species.

Scanned images from a book, orange and dark pink wildflowers
Color strip from cover of Carroll Abbott’s 1979 “How to Know and Grow Texas Wildflowers.”

The week-long focus on native plants will be new this fall, but Texas has had a Wildflower Day since April 26, 1980. This first day was proclaimed by a gubernatorial edict of Governor Bill Clements in conjunction with the first annual Wildflower Day conference at Texas Women’s University in Denton. This symposium, in effect, was the first meeting of the Native Plant Society of Texas.

Thanks to the efforts of Carroll Abbott of Kerrville, by the time the second Wildflower Day at TWU came around in April of 1981, there was an official Texas Wildflower Day and an official beginning of the Native Plant Society of Texas.

Carroll Abbott worked for newspapers in Houston and Kerrville during the 1940s and 1950s and was part of a group that operated the Comfort News in the early 1960s. During the 1950s and 1960s, he was a political consultant and public-relations person for the State Democratic Party.

All the time he traveled for the Democratic Party, he also observed, collected, and raised wildflowers. In 1970, he quit political consulting to devote the rest of his life to wildflowers. Abbott moved to Kerrville and started Green Horizons, a seed company and nursery. He began publishing the “Texas Wildflower Newsletter” in the fall of 1976.

Abbott used this publication to educate the public about native plants and to advocate for a Native Plant Society of Texas. In the Winter 1980 issue, he also made a plea to have the fourth Saturday in April officially recognized as Wildflower Day in Texas.

He wrote, “To aid the movement, Abbott has announced plans to register with the Secretary of State as a professional wildflower lobbyist, representing all of the 5,500 different species of plants native to Texas.” He gathered 3,000 expressions of support from individuals and clubs.

Representative Earnestine Glossbrenner of Alice was the first legislator to show an interest in the Wildflower Day idea. Carroll Abbott, therefore, got her to handle the bill for declaring a Wildflower Day in Texas. On April 6, 1981, the bill easily passed the House vote and was sent to the Senate and eventually to the Governor for his signature.

The fourth Saturday of April for Wildflower Day in Texas coincided with the Wildflower Day observances at TWU in the 1980s. The third week in October for Texas Native Plant Week will coincide with the time of the annual Symposium of the Native Plant Society of Texas.

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason