What effects will February’s winter storms have on this spring’s bluebonnets?

Weather

A bluebonnet blooms along the side on Interstate 35 on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. (KXAN Photo/Chris Davis)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — You may have noticed a few wildflowers beginning to bloom just before last month’s historic winter storms. If you’re wondering how they may have fared those harsh conditions, there’s some good news.

According to Leslie Uppinghouse, a horticulturist at The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Central Texas wildflower, especially the bluebonnets, are in great shape.

“But specifically, wildflowers [and bluebonnets], the plant base is typically under that 6 inches of snow. And that snow really helped to protect the plant itself,” Uppinghouse says. “So they’re fine. You probably won’t even see any damage for any of those wildflowers.”

Essentially, the snowpack acted as a blanket that kept the wildflowers safe from the bitterly cold temperatures above. Generally, the plants that were exposed to the near zero degree temperatures above the snowpack are the ones who did not make it.

Not only did snow protect the wildflowers, but it also provided some beneficial water. Snow falls as a solid and takes up more volume than when rain falls as a liquid. This is called the “snow to liquid ratio” and it averages at around 10:1, meaning 10 inches of snow will usually equal about 1 inch of liquid rain.

February’s snowstorms added up to about 6 to 8 inches across Central Texas, which equals to about 1/2 to 2/3 of an inch of rain that help our wildflowers bloom.

As climate change continues to enhance extreme weather events across the globe, Uppinghouse says scientists will continue to monitor and study the effects these events have on our plants.

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