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Enjoy a Spring Tradition - Touring Texas Wildflower Trails

March 23, 2021

Just a month ago Texas suffered one of the worst hard freezes in state history, but March has brought warmer temperatures and signs of spring with wildflowers starting to bloom alongside roadways across the Lonestar State.

Taking a road trip to spy the beauty of bluebonnets, pink evening primroses and many other wildflower species sprouting along highways and byways is a Texas tradition.

“Texas wildflower season is much anticipated this time of the year. Many wildflower enthusiasts will travel from all over the state and the country to view this prestigious event,” writes Houston Chronicle horticulture columnist Michael Potter.

Frigid February Helps Reset Texas Wildflower Season

While the scale of each Texas wildflower season and peak spring blooming dates are dependent on weather, the good news is that the historic cold snap in February may have helped this year’s wildflower nature show.

The Austin American-Statesman reported earlier this month that unusually warm weather in January had some wildflowers starting to bloom unseasonably early but the February frigid temps helped put the season back on track.

“This cold spell is likely to reset things so the flowers bloom during their normal time. I was worried things were moving too fast due to all of the warm weather" Andrea DeLong-Amaya, horticulture director at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, told the American-Statesman.

Starting Point: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

A perfect starting point before hitting the Texas wildflower trails is the University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Located 12 miles from downtown Austin, the center is the Botanic Garden of Texas.

The center was established by the late Lady Bird Johnson and has a mission to “inspire the conservation of native plants through its internationally recognized sustainable gardens, education and outreach programs, research projects, and consulting work.”

The former first lady, with her motto of “where flowers bloom, so does hope” championed wildflower planting programs across Texas and the country.

Popular Texas Wildflower Trails

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has plenty of information on Texas wildflowers and in 2016 released the definitive guide to wildflower trails across the state.

Broken down by region, the drives include:

  • High Plains Loop: Take 87/287 north from Amarillo. Right on FM 1913 for 25 miles, then right again onto FM 1319. South 10 miles to Sanford, then 7 miles south to Fritch. Take TX 136 south back to Amarillo.
Northeast Texas
  • Piney Woods and Bayou: From Marshall, north along Texas 43, then right onto FM 134 toward Karnack. Head into Karnack and turn directly left on FM 2606/TJ Taylor Avenue. Turn right on FM 2198 to Uncertain. Visit Caddo Lake State Park on your way back to Texas 43, which takes you north to Atlanta. Then US 59 to Linden. Texas 155 to Avinger, then Texas 49 to Jefferson. Then US 59 back to Marshall.
East Texas
  • Dogwood Heaven: From Palestine, east on US 84 to Rusk. Then south on US 69 to Alto. Skirt border of Davy Crockett National Forest on Texas 21 to Crockett. Then back to Palestine on US 287.
Greater Houston
  • Brenham’s Bluebonnet Loop: From Brenham, northeast on TX 105. Then right onto FM 1155 south to Chappell Hill. Right on US 290, take Austin exit in Brenham to stay on 290 for 14 miles. Take turn off to Burton, FM 1697, then right onto FM 390. Proceed to Old Baylor Park in Independence. Turn right on FM 50, back to Texas 105 and Brenham.
San Antonio Area
  • Official Wildflower Capital: Head southeast from San Antonio on US 181 to Kenedy. Then north on FM 792 to Texas 80 just south of Helena. Proceed north to Nixon, then head east on US 87 toward Westhoff. Continue south on 87 until it meets US 183/US 77A to Goliad. Then return to Kenedy via TX 239 East.
Hill Country
  • Willow City Loop: From Fredericksburg, head north on TX 16 for approximately 13 miles, go east on Ranch Road 1323 for nearly 3 miles to Willow City, then turn left onto Willow City Loop. Return to Fredericksburg via TX 16.
Southwest Texas
  • Bigger in Big Bend: From Marfa, south on US 67 to Presidio. Then FM 170 Camino Rio along the Rio Grande through Big Bend State Park to Terlingua and Study Butte. Take TX 118 north to Alpine, then return to Marfa on US 67/90.

What Texas Wildflowers to Spot

There are more than 5,000 blooming plants in Texas, but the wildflowers steal the show.

Here are some Texas wildflowers to spot on your drive:

  • Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) The six species of the beloved bluebonnets that grow in Texas have been designated the State Flower by the Texas Legislature.
  • Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja spp.) Named because the bright tips of the petal-like bracts look like they have been dipped in paint. Colors vary from scarlet to orange, cream, yellow, and occasionally purple.
  • Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) Also called firewheel. Named because fields of red, orange, and yellow of this wildflower resembles brightly woven fabric.
  • Drummond Phlox (Phlox drummondii) Spot these red, and sometimes pink, blue and purple, wildflowers in post-oak woods near roadways.
  • Verbena (Verbena spp.) May be the most abundant wildflower in Texas with common shades of purple, pink and red.
  • Pink Evening Primrose (Oenothera speciosa) Also called the Buttercup, this wildflower opens each dusk with flowers withering each day only to be replaced again in the evening.

 For more Texas wildflower varieties check out this Texas Highways article.

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