Reaching Llano County in time to do any botanizing means getting up very early in the morning. (Fortunately, there is a great little bakery in Caldwell, right on Hwy 21. One of their large cinnamon rolls can last you almost to Bastrop.) It looked like rain as we started, but fortune was with us and we had a lovely day.
On a roadside in Blanco County, we just had to stop to see what the tall, brilliantly blue flowers were. They turned out to be Tradescantia gigantea, a Spiderwort much larger and more robust than the Spiderworts nearer home. Note the bow-tie shaped anthers and the furry filaments. This would make a stunning garden plant.
In the same spot, we found some very large individuals of Gaura brachycarpa (Plains Gaura). This is usually a small plant (about 0.5 meter), but these plants required some serious folding before they would fit in the press. The flowers open white, then darken to pink as they wither.
Also present on the roadside was Verbena bipinnatifida (Dakota Vervain). This has got to be the showiest Verbena in the state. It's also very widespread--everywhere we go, we seem to find it.
Back in the car, we were soon treated to what was widely regarded as the best wildflower show in decades. Botanists and wildflower enthusiasts will be talking about the Spring of '96 for years! The roads were lined with Bluebonnets (Lupinus) and Prickly Poppies (Argemone)--and dozens of cars and hundreds of tourists with cameras! As we drove a high, winding road above a creekbed, we saw what looked like a shimmering lake far below. It took a moment to realize that it was not water, but a sea of solid Bluebonnets.
Go on to the Base of the Outcrop