Get Ready for a Banner Wildflower Season: Our Favorite Day Trips to View the Blooms

Spring means wildflower season around the entire state of Texas as our landscapes proudly display the blooms of many of the state’s 5,000 species of native flowering plants. Here in Central Texas, our open spaces and roadsides become carpets of color with the likes of bluebonnet, Indian paintbrush, pink evening primrose, scarlet phlox, Texas star, wine cups and rain lilies on display during March and April before giving way to later blooming species such as Mexican blanket. And many are predicting that the chilly, wet winter couples with recent sunny days and cool nights is going to produce a banner wildflower season this spring. So get out and enjoy it!

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Bluebonnets, the Texas state flower

 

Bluebonnets are always at the top of the bill for wildflower lovers. For one thing, this Texas native is our state flower, but it also hits peak blooming season in mid-April and its abundant blooms can give entire fields a distinctive indigo hue. Indian paintbrushes with their distinctive orange are typically the second most prominent wildflower blooms, with other species adding pink, yellow and burgundy accents.

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Milkweed, Hill Country Penstemon and Giant Spiderwort

 

As to where to find the best wildflower displays, the good news is that a drive into rural areas in any direction should work. Here are our favorite day trips to enjoy the season:

Heading east:

• Take Hwy 290 to the east to what many claim is center of bluebonnet viewing, Washington County. Brenham, the county seat, is about 90 miles from Austin, roughly halfway to Houston, and is considered the hub of the region’s bluebonnet tourism. In addition to the numerous nearby viewing routes and associated wildflower attractions, Brenham also features a historic downtown with numerous shops, restaurants and even places to stay overnight. If you head this way during the weekend of April 11-12, don’t miss the state’s official Bluebonnet Festival in Chappell Hill, just 10 miles further east on Hwy 290.

• Take Hwy 71 to Fayette County, southwest of the Brenham area. The area around La Grange offers a number of prime bluebonnet routes just an hour’s drive from Austin

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One of the many trails at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

 

Heading west:

• Take Hwy 290 heading west through Dripping Springs before detouring on Hwy 281 into Johnson City and then on to Fredericksburg. In addition to the abundant wildflowers, you are likely to see blooming peach trees in the numerous orchards. One of the most acclaimed wildflower routes is the 20-or-so-mile Willow City Loop, located about 12 miles northeast of Fredericksburg off Hwy 16.

• Take Hwy 71 westbound to see streams of blue along the highway and a more rugged landscape than you’ll find east of Austin. If you make it all the way to Llano and are a meat-eater, be sure to stop at Cooper’s BBQ when you arrive.

Before you head out, check out the handy Texas Highways guide to the 30 most common wildflowers in Texas. Or visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, a local treasure dedicated to protecting and preserving North America’s wildflowers and other native plants. And for up-to-the-minute information about seasonal road conditions on Texas public highways, call the Texas Department of Transportation’s travel information line at 800-452-9292.

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