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      Nature Report: Yucca Spring

      While the rest of the nation is shivering in wintry weather, spring is already arriving in the Rio Grande Valley.

      Each year, the blooming yuccas or pitas, as they are known in Spanish, herald in the spring in Deep South Texas.

      Some are just starting to open their creamy white petals, while others are in full bloom.

      Sure, we may have some cold weather on the horizon, but if the yuccas are any indication then winters grip is slipping fast.

      The pitas are attractive as perches for raptors such as Harris's hawks and rare aplomado falcons.

      They are also a tasty treat for chachalacas who are quick to take advantage of the spring's first flowering.

      The Rio Grande Valley is always way ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to spring blooms, and with the yuccas already flowering it won't be long before the sweet smell of huisahce and chaparro prieto will begin filling the air.

      Soon wildflowers will carpet the brush country and later prickly pear cactus blooms will adorn the thorny chaparral.

      Texas tortoises will emerge from their winter brumation and begin foraging. The wildlands will fill with birdsong as nesting season begins in earnest.

      There is much to look forward to, but it all starts with those first scattered yucca blooms and within a month or so the South Texas brush country will be covered in "snow capped" pitas.