Springtime in the Lone Star State is something special. The entire state awakens after the gray winter months; trees begin to grow their leaves back, baby birds start to hatch, butterflies fly about with reckless abandon, and the return of the state flower, the bluebonnet, is imminent. Beauty abounds in the Texas spring, and the abundance of wildflowers paints the beautiful picture that is the Lone Star State landscape.
With its immense size, temperate climate, and diverse landscape, Texas is an ideal seedbed for wildflower activity. In fact, this state is home to more than 5,000 species of flowering plants. Wildflowers are imperative to a healthy ecosystem: they help conserve water; reduce mowing costs; provide a habitat for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife; protect the soil; and save money on fertilizer and pesticides. In terms of wildflowers, no two years are the same. How much rain has fallen, how warm the weather is, as well as how cold the winter was, are all factors in the variation of springtime blooms. Human actions, such as mowing, irrigation, and development, are also major contributors to which species bloom come spring. Regardless of how many flowers bloom and when they get started, these beauties do so much more than create a picturesque side of the highway.
March, April, and May are prime blooming months in Texas, and without a doubt, the only way to fully appreciate them in all their splendor is to see them for yourself. So gas up the car, pick up a friend or two, and hit the Texas highway. Your efforts will be handsomely rewarded. Read on for a few wildflower routes to check out this spring.
Caddo Lake State Park
Head north along Texas 43 from Marshall to Karnack. In low-lying areas, be on the lookout for common rose mallow and giant coneflower, whose blooms can reach heights of six feet or more. Take FM 2198 to Uncertain, where you might see crimson clover and coreopsis blooms, as well as partridge pea, downy phlox, bluebonnets, Mexican hats, and wild indigo.
On park trails in Caddo Lake State Park, look for blooming Spanish moss. Hit the water via canoe or paddle boat to feast your eyes on bladderwort, flowering Cabomba, water lily, and American lotus.
While on Texas 43, continue north to Atlanta, then take US 59 to Linden. Along the way, look for coreopsis, crimson clover, spiderwort, phlox, and bachelor buttons. If you take this route, you could even catch a glimpse of Indian paintbrush, larkspur, red buckeye, butterfly weed, and black-eyed Susans.
Plan to take this 90-mile drive when you have plenty of time. Start from Brenham and head northeast on Texas 105 to get a look at some blooming flowers like purple coneflower, verbena, beardtongue, coral bean, skullcaps, and prairie parsley.
Turn right at US 290 and take the Austin exit in Brenham. Remain on US 290 for approximately 15 miles and then take the turn for Burton via FM 1697. Here you will see some of the richest bluebonnet patches in the entire state of Texas. If you pay close attention, you might also get to take in the beauty of Indian paintbrush, yellow wild indigo, thistles, blue-eyed grass, rattlesnake flower, blanket flower, and rosinweed.
West of El Paso lies the Northern Chihuahuan Desert. Vegetation here includes lechuguilla, sotol, ocotillo, different varieties of yucca, and a myriad of cactus species.
With cooperative weather, fields of bright yellow mountain poppies, one of the park’s most impressive sights, can best be seen on the eastern slope of the Franklins. Hike the short Sneed’s Cory trail in the Tom Mays Unit to see pineapple cactus, Chihuahuan fishhook cactus, and agave.
Head west toward Presidio and look for blooming cacti, Big Bend bluebonnets, blind cactus, rainbow cactus, cat claw, strawberry pitaya, bicolor fan mustard, ocotillo, cenizo, desert marigolds, and rock nettles. Take a hike up Closed Canyon, where you could see hechtia.
The State Flower
Any article detailing wildflowers of Texas would be remiss if it did not mention the wildflower of all wildflowers – the bluebonnet. When you are ready to see a Texas icon in all its glory, you must take a trip to Ennis, the Official Bluebonnet City of Texas, for the 40-mile Official Bluebonnet Trail of Texas. Ennis is 25 minutes south of downtown Dallas on IH-45 and is a perfect spot for a family weekend getaway or simply a day trip.
During the month of April each year, Ennis showcases over 40 miles of Bluebonnet Trails, which are sponsored by the Ennis Garden Club. The club keeps a close eye on the trails and the blooms each week, and their status is reported to the Ennis Convention and Visitors Bureau, keeping visitors updated on what they can expect during their visit (for future reference, the bluebonnets typically peak around the third week of April). Just like anything dealing with nature, this can vary year to year due to weather conditions and terrain. The trails in Ennis are the oldest in the state, and countless visitors make the drive to see the bluebonnet show for themselves.
Ideally, this abbreviated list of wildflower routes will pique your interest in all that the beautiful Texas landscape has to offer. Plan a wildflower drive or two – as a Texan, you owe it to yourself to see these natural beauties in person. And take photos, too! (How else will you convey their beauty to your out-of-state friends?) After all, a photo is worth a thousand words. Remember, each year is unique, and you might find something that you were not even looking for. But that is the thrill of the hunt – and looking for wildflowers is a beautiful endeavor indeed. Happy hunting!