Spring, as it turns out, was not canceled. While we've been locked up indoors, bluebonnets and other wildflowers have been popping up all around Dallas-Fort Worth.
"We didn’t have as wet of a fall as we did in 2018, but we are still seeing quite a bit of blooming," says Megan Proska, senior horticulture manager at the Dallas Arboretum's Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden & Trials Gardens.
The bloom season should last until mid-April or so, Proska says, depending on the weather.
Thank goodness, then, that Dallas, Tarrant, and surrounding counties make exceptions to their stay-at-home orders for engaging in outdoor activity for physical and mental health — as long as groups don't gather and social distance is maintained.
Trips to the Texas Hill Country are more than "engaging in outdoor activity," sadly. And many of spring's hottest spots for wildflower-peeping in North Texas are not available this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Ennis Bluebonnet Trails are closed, and their beloved annual bluebonnet festival is called off. (Save the date for April 16-18, 2021, they say.) Cedar Hill State Park, normally bursting with color this time of year, is closed, too.
Some DFW parks and natural areas that remain open — like Cottonwood Park in Irving, Tandy Hills Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth, and Clark Gardens Botanical Park in Weatherford — are pretty spots for walks among flowers. But parks attract visitors, and visitors attract groups, and groups are a bad thing.
What's blooming where
A family drive out to a field, hike along a greenbelt, or a bike ride down a country road might just be the only real way to view bluebonnets in the age of social distancing.
Proska says besides bluebonnets, we'll see Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, Evening primrose, Mexican Hat, and Coreopsis blooming now. Photo-worthy patches have sprung up along roads from Frisco to Mansfield to Azle, and areas around Ennis — even if the official trails are closed.
Each year, bluebonnets paint the landscape along highways 183, 121, and 114 near DFW Airport. And they dot stretches of I-30 between the Dallas and Fort Worth city limits, too.
School's not in session and the doors are closed, but the wildflowers are still accessible around the George W. Bush Presidential Presidential Library and Museum on the SMU campus.
Popular Dallas parks are being barricaded, but plenty of other trails and greenbelts with flowers dotting the sidewalks are open as long as people follow the six-foot social distancing rule; find a list of trails-not-named-Katy here.
Plano's Bluebonnet Trail Greenbelt is popping just east of where the trail crosses Custer Road.
According to posts in the Facebook group Texas Bluebonnets and Wildflowers, plenty of other pretty patches and gorgeous fields have been spotted north of Dallas proper. One is near the J.C. Penney headquarters on Legacy Drive. Frisco's got some pretty ones just outside Zion Cemetery.
For those willing to drive a bit out of town, Indian Paintbrush (which can be various shades of red, white, orange, yellow, and purple) are abundant in far west Fort Worth, off Interstates 30 and 20, toward Weatherford.
For those making it a day-long adventure, farther out of the Metroplex, there are patches at the entrance to Mallard Park in Lavon (about 35 miles northeast of Dallas) and fields of wildflowers off Highway 75 in Denison and Sherman, spotters say.
Before you head out on a country drive, remember we are living in a world without pit stops at roadside Whataburgers. Plan snacks, drinks, and potential restroom situations accordingly.
Also, remember the "groups" rule. If you approach a pretty patch and another family is taking photos, ride on by.
Some regular guidelines to keep in mind, too: Don't trespass on private property. Don't pick the flowers. Step gently so you don't squish them, and don't leave anything behind. Also, beware of snakes, fire ants, and other critters that might be hiding among the flowers.
Wildflowers from the comfort of your couch
Can’t get outside? Enjoy a virtual tour of what’s blooming around the state on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Flickr page, populated with wildflower sightings from state parks and wildlife management areas, or its Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, where anyone can share photos of the great outdoors.
Melissa Gaskill contributed to this report.