Here are some of the state’s top places for spring blooms.
By Emily Moskal
April is the pinnacle of Texas’ spring wildflower explosion.
More than 5,000 species of wildflowers (including six species of bluebonnets) bloom in Texas. By April, most of the state is transformed into riotous fields dotted with all colors of the rainbow, as if there were a great confetti machine in the clouds spewing mightily. After a gray winter, it’s like opening Dorothy’s farmhouse door and seeing Oz in all its Technicolor splendor.
The bloom season usually progresses in a wave from early March in Big Bend to mid-March in coastal cities, late March in Houston, early to mid-April in Central Texas and late April in the Panhandle. This year, the season started early and may spread out over several months, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Remember, whether you’re stopping to smell the primroses or take family portraits, watch where you’re stepping: Stay off private property, look for hazardous wildlife and don’t trample the flowers. While it’s not illegal to pick bluebonnets or other wildflowers, many parks prohibit it, and these annual beauties need the chance to seed next year’s crop. For more wildflower information, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’s collection of Texas natives displayed on 279 acres in Austin or browse its online database: www.wildflower.org.
Wildflower sightings vary year to year, but these routes and hot spots are known for spectacular displays.
Snap a photo of the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd or a historical cabin in a blanket of bluebonnets at the park. Continue west on U.S. Highway 290 to Fredericksburg, head north on Texas Highway 16, east on FM 1323, then turn left on Willow City Loop. This 13-mile two-lane ranch road gets busy on weekends but is worth it for the views of exquisite geology and blazing fields of sunset-colored Indian paintbrushes and Indian blankets.
Inks Lake is in the middle of the popular Highland Lakes Bluebonnet Trail that winds through the upper Highland Lakes towns of Llano, Kingsland, Marble Falls and Burnet. On Park Road 4 through the park, you’ll find blankets of azure-blue, cloud-tipped bluebonnets across a pink granite backdrop. Continue 15 minutes on Texas Highway 29 to Burnet, where the official “Bluebonnet Capital of Texas” holds an annual Bluebonnet Festival the second weekend of April.
In these rocky, yucca-studded canyons, desert marigolds, hip-high Big Bend bluebonnets and scarlet-colored claret cups fill the park. The spring flowering season starts along the Rio Grande corridor, and showers of color creep up into the mountains by late April. Follow the Rio Grande on the 50-mile drive on FM 170 between Lajitas and Presidio, and be sure to visit the Barton Warnock Visitor Center’s botanical garden.
Designated by the Texas Legislature as the “Official Bluebonnet City of Texas” and home of the “Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail,” Ennis has one of the oldest established bluebonnet trails. From April 1–30, Ennis showcases more than 40 miles of well-marked and mapped driving bluebonnet trails, sponsored by the Ennis Garden Club. Stop by the Ennis Convention and Visitors Bureau to get the latest wildflower hot spots, scouted each week.
This route through Burton, Independence, Washington-on-the-Brazos, Chappell Hill and Brenham is covered in bluebonnets, coneflowers, prairie verbena and skullcaps. Together, Brenham and Chappell Hill are self-described as “The Heart of Bluebonnet Country.” This year Chappell Hill hosts the 53rd Annual Bluebonnet Festival during the second weekend of April.