There’s snow on that prairie!

Click image for larger view.

Just when you thought that wildflower season had boiled down to sunflowers, up popped these pristine beauties known as “snow-on-the-prairie” and the very similar (and wider-leafed) snow-on-the-mountain.

Snow-on-the-prairie blooms in fairly barren ground in Collin County.

Respectively, they’re Euphorbia bicolor and E. marginata, and they seem to appear out of nowhere to cover large pieces of ground with their cooling white floral bracts (not really true flowers). And therein might lie the clue to their famous sister, our best-selling potted plant in America, the Christmas poinsettia (E. pulcherrima).

Cup-shaped Poinsettia flowers on left are similar to those of Snow-on-the-Prairie. (Remember that all poinsettia flowers – the true flowers – are yellow.)

Continued Below

This is a huge genus of plants, all with the unusual flower structure called the “cyathium.” It’s shaped like a cup, and it’s found in the center of all the more colorful floral bracts. The bracts are actually just modified leaves.

Dust and smoke of the late summer create dramatic sunsets in contrast to the “snowy” scene on the prairie.

Snow-on-the-prairie and snow-on-the-mountain are both annual Texas wildflowers. They grow best in full to partial sun, and they are usually found growing in poor soils that are lacking in fertility. Because of that they face little competition from nearby weeds, and the plants themselves are usually somewhat spindly.

Snow-on-the-prairie in McKinney this week. Click image for larger view.

If you grow them in fertile, overly wet garden soils the plants are likely to become lush and vegetative with few flowers.

Once established from seed, they should resow themselves year after year.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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