Signs of spring
After an unseasonably warm winter and the 7th warmest January on record globally, Texans are no doubt wondering what the 2023 spring bluebonnet and wildflower season will look like.
Though they typically bloom in late March and early April, some areas of Texas are already noticing pockets of the flowers earlier than expected.
Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, says it’s typical to see the first patches of flowers along highways due to the heat. Cooler areas on the outskirts of town will start to see their blooms later.
“The warm, sunny weather is what triggers how soon they bloom,” she explained. “Last year, for example, it was a little unusually cold [in Austin], so they came out a lot later than they are this year.”
Austin and Houston are currently experiencing their early blooms. Farther north in Dallas-Fort Worth, it might be another two weeks before any bluebonnets pop up. But in San Antonio, they might already be seeing plenty.
“It’s like a gradient from south to north,” DeLong-Amaya says. “It’s warmer generally as you go south, so they bloom a little bit earlier.”
The most famous bluebonnet spot in North Texas - the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails - posted to Facebook on February 14 that bluebonnet plants were starting to emerge.
"They are still in the very early plant stage," the post said. "There are no blooms. Typically they bloom between April 1-30 in the Ennis area. Ennis Bluebonnet driving trail maps will be available around April 1st when they start to bloom."
The Ennis Bluebonnet Trails Festival will take place April 14-16.
Out in the West Texas-Big Bend area, there’s an entirely different species of bluebonnet that blooms earlier in February and March, which isn’t necessarily dependent on the heat.
One of the biggest factors that impacts the bluebonnet season is drought. But DeLong-Amaya says there was plenty of rain when seedlings started to germinate, which was especially fortunate for Central Texas areas like Austin.
“In some years where we’ve had a very dry winter; that definitely impacts the show in spring and would reduce how many plants we would have to see and possibly how big they get.”
Though many were worried about the bluebonnets getting burned by the February 2021 freeze, the flowers escaped mostly unscathed. They were mostly in a rosette form that hugged the ground while the snowfall acted as an “insulated blanket.” DeLong-Amaya says she’s never seen a freeze kill a bluebonnet, though taller plants above the snow might occasionally see some damage.
Texans wanting to get the most out of the peak bluebonnet season should visit state and national parks toward the end of March. While you’re getting the perfect photo in that big patch of flowers, DeLong-Amaya does encourage fellow bluebonnet-lovers to be respectful and not trample them.
“All of the plants that get trampled are then not going to survive to set seed and replenish the next year,” she warns. “It also puts plants out of commission for bees that are pollinators.”
If you’re worried if you might be breaking a law by picking a few bluebonnets, don’t be. There are no special laws that prevent you picking the state flower. Just don't pick or destroy any plants on state or national park grounds since they have their own laws against it. Now get ready to enjoy one of Texas’ most beautiful spring features.