The sights of springtime draw near
Few things represent spring in Texas more than bluebonnets. Blanketing fields and roadsides in sheets of blue, their showy display inspires a deep appreciation for the sheer beauty of nature and the Texas countryside.
Although the Texas state flower appears in many areas, especially throughout the Hill Country, ask anyone about the best location to view them and you will likely get different answers. Everyone has their own favorite spot. It’s also difficult to pinpoint exactly where and when bluebonnets will make their appearance, as locations may vary from year to year, depending on the weather patterns. Bluebonnets usually bloom in late March and early April, but it’s a good idea to check out the season’s forecast so you will see the flowers at their peak. (Just search online for a 2018 bluebonnet forecast.)
When we queried a few native Texans about the most picturesque places to see bluebonnets, a few were frequently mentioned. This is not a definitive list, but it’s a good place to get started.
The “Bluebonnet House” in Marble Falls
Heading out of Marble Falls on Highway 281 toward Burnet, an abandoned two-story 19th century homestead, aptly called the “Bluebonnet House,” sits alone in a field surrounded by grasses, bluebonnets, and other wildflowers. If you slow down to snap a photo, you won’t be alone. It’s said to be one of the most photographed houses in Texas.
Designated as the home of the Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail and the Official Bluebonnet City, Ennis showcases over 40 miles of mapped driving bluebonnet trails. Be sure to check the current map on the website, call the Ennis Convention and Visitors Bureau at (972) 878-4748 for updated trails and directions, or visit BluebonnetTrail.org. Where the bluebonnets bloom changes annually on the maps, which are highlighted and updated throughout the season.
Fredericksburg, Willow City Loop
One of the most popular scenic drives in the Hill Country, this loop is a premier springtime destination for bluebonnet viewing. The boot fence, which sports cowboy and cowgirl boots on its wooden posts, heightens the Texas charm. To get there from Fredericksburg, drive north on Highway 16 for approximately 13 miles to Willow City. Head east on Ranch Road 1323 for about three miles, then turn left onto Willow City Loop. During peak bluebonnet season, plan to drive the “Loop” on a weekday when there is less traffic.
Take Highway 16 from Fredericksburg to Llano, a charming little town with shops and restaurants. (Try Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, a no-frills smokehouse experience that’s worth a visit.) People claim that just north of Llano are some of the “best bluebonnet fields you’ll ever see.” Another option—from Fredericksburg, take North Highway 87 to FM 2323 to Llano for some splendid bluebonnet viewing.
April Bluebonnet Festivals
Texas loves to celebrate its bluebonnets with special events. Chappell Hill and Burnet are a couple of good examples.
Chappell Hill’s shindig has earned the title “Official State of Texas Bluebonnet Festival,” and the town considers itself “the heart of bluebonnet country.” Located halfway between Houston and Austin on Highway 290, this year’s 54th Annual Bluebonnet Festival, held April 14th and 15th, will have more than 250 exhibitors.
Not to be outdone, the bluebonnet festival in Burnet, held April 13th to 15th this year, includes a grand parade on Saturday. Considered by many to be one of the biggest and best parades in central Texas, it includes marching bands, antique cars, horses, fire trucks, and special performing groups such as the Sunrise Beach Lawn Chair Brigade and Hill Country Plungettes.
Exploring Texas’ bluebonnet country has been described as “surreal perfection,” and we couldn’t agree more. Whether you make a day of it or plan a weekend trip, the flower-painted landscape brings feelings of joy and wonderment. What better way to celebrate spring?
Bluebonnet Fun Facts
The bluebonnet is also known as buffalo clover, wolf flower, and el conejo (Spanish for “the rabbit”). Indian lore called the flower a gift from the Great Spirit.
Texas adopted “Bluebonnets” by Julia D. Booth and Lora C. Crockett as the official state flower song in 1933.
Several bluebonnet strains have mixed with other common wildflowers, resulting in floral hybrids colored red, white, blue, and even pink.
Bluebonnets form a seedpod around mid-May. As the seeds mature, the pods open and release their seeds, making a popping sound.
On March 7, 1901, Lupinus subcarnosus became the only species of bluebonnet recognized as the state flower of Texas. What the Texas Legislature may not have known is that the Lonestar State is home to more than one Lupinus species. In 1971, the state flower was modified to include any similar species of Lupinus that could be found in Texas (e.g. Lupinus texensis), putting the controversy to rest once and for all.
By Annette Brooks