The Bulb Factor

Take a spring stroll in a natural setting and you just may spy these rare native bulbed beauties.

Flowering plants that produce bulbs are an intriguing group of plants, more closely related to grasses than other wildflowers. Springtime is the time when many cultivated bulbs produce their showy flowers.

Although introduced bulbs like daffodils and tulips get all the press, there are a few native wildflowers that also grow from bulbs. Take a spring stroll in a natural setting and you can enjoy these rarer bulbed beauties.

Prairie pleatleaf (Nemastylis geminiflora) is the most common of the spring perennial bulbs on this list. In late winter, it begins to produce long thin leaves with wavy crinkles or “pleats.” It grows completely unnoticed, mixed with surrounding grasses, until it produces large six-petaled sky blue flowers with yellow centers. Catch them quick because each flower only lasts one day! Each plant produces only a couple of flowers at a time beginning in March.

Atlantic camas (Camassia scilloides), also called wild hyacinth, produces an elongated cluster of blue, white or lavender flowers in early spring. It requires a little extra moisture to persist and grows in the Texas Hill Country in seeps on otherwise rocky hills mixed with seep muhly and little bluestem. Bexar County is close to the western extent of this attractive wildflower’s range and it’s more common further east.

Death camas (Toxicoscordion nuttallii) grows in similar locations as Atlantic camas, but beware — like the name implies, it is poisonous. But they’re perfectly safe for viewing. They only pose a threat if you dig up the bulb and eat it. It produces large clusters of white flowers in March and April that seem to shine with their own light in the shade of mixed oak and juniper woods where they’re often found.

For adventurous wildflower enthusiasts, visit natural areas on the north side, like Eisenhauer and Friedrich parks, to catch a glimpse of one of these rarer and lesser-known wildflowers.

Picture of Cleveland Powell
Cleveland Powell
Cleveland Powell is a conservation planner for SAWS. He is enthusiastic about grass taxonomy and milkweed propagation. In his free time, Powell enjoys hiking around area parks in search of intriguing bugs, birds and plants.
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