Generally resembling common creeping garden phlox, Texas trailing phlox may be distinguished primarily by the presence of tiny glandular hairs. The shrub’s stem creeps along the ground, the final 1-6 inches erect and bearing blossoms. Though they may be white, flowers are usually pink to magenta and appear from March through May. When temperature and moisture levels are favorable, the plant remains green all year.
Endemic to the Pineywoods of the West Gulf Coastal Plain of East Texas, the Texas trailing phlox is associated with the longleaf pine ecosystem, growing in deep sandy soils in fire-maintained openings in the woodlands. As the longleaf pine forests have disappeared, so too has the Texas trailing phlox. Once though to be extinct, the plant was rediscovered in 1972 and listed as federally endangered in 1991.
The largest group of populations of the plant are protected by The Nature Conservancy at the Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary, where land managers conduct prescribed burns to maintain the plant’s habitat and the wider ecosystem. Fire-adapted, if the plant endures controlled burns in April, it will resprout and flower in May. The Conservancy also assisted in a 1995 reintroduction project in the Turkey Creek Unit of the Big Thicket Preserve in Hardin County.
Tidbit: Texas trailing phlox is only found in Hardin, Polk and Tyler counties