Bluebonnet season kicks off in Austin, others nearby still waiting

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s bluebonnet season. The brilliant blue wildflower is a part of Texas history, mythology, and lore. This year is shaping up to be a decent one for viewing the flower.

Damon Waitt with the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center says the bluebonnet sets Texas apart from other states.

“What’s the appeal of the bluebonnet?” said Damon Waitt, senior director and botanist. “It’s like asking the Irishman what’s the appeal of the shamrock. Bluebonnets are to Texans, a part of our history. There’s mythology, lore surrounding them. They make us proud to be Texans. It’s something we have that other states don’t have and wish they had.”

Patches of bluebonnets mix with Indian paintbrush and even their enemy yellow bastard cabbage along the highways in Central Texas. So far, the best sights are in Austin and to the east toward Houston, according to TxDOT’s Wildflower Sightings map. That’s where some of the best fall rain fell.

“Still pretty dry out west in the Hill Country and still very cold north up around Dallas, Fort Worth and Ennis areas, so maybe a bit of delay up there,” said Waitt.

The lack of winter rain means the blooms aren’t as big as they could be.

“I would say the plants look a little more diminutive than normal,” said Waitt. “They’re not the big, giant, robust bluebonnets we’re used to and that’s probably an artifact of not getting enough rainfall during the early spring weeks.”

Even areas where there’s been more rain won’t see the explosion of color we saw a couple years ago. 2010 was a banner year for wildflowers in Central Texas. Since then, the drought has taken a toll by limiting the number of plants.

“What we’re seeing is the gradual reduction in the number of plants out there in nature,” said Waitt. “They need to replenish themselves. We need another good banner year so they can flower, produce seed and replenish that seed bank.”

If you’d rather not take your bluebonnet pictures along the side of a highway, folks at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Southwest Austin say they have several photo-ready spots in full bloom.

The famous bluebonnets and the red Texas paintbrush flowers start blooming in March and they peak in April. The red and yellow Indian Blanket wildflowers bloom as the Bluebonnets fade away. Their peak time is in late April through May. The orange Mexican Hat flowers and pink Drummond’s phlox bloom through June and wrap up the wildflower season.

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