Hunt for the Perfect Bluebonnet Patch!
by Tonya Kerr
Spring in Texas holds a family tradition of anticipating, guessing, hunting and driving for hours to capture your kids in the perfect bluebonnet photo.
Driving on highways and byways of the Lone Star State between late March and early June can be downright hazardous as cars suddenly veer to the shoulder for a blanket-sized flower patch with their kids in tow. Some families go to great extremes planning road trips to festivals, trekking uncanny locales and sharing secret locations on social media.
This year, it’s still a guessing game according to most bluebonnet gurus. Invariably, a burst of blooms depends on the previous year’s weather (Harvey is our wildcard) and Mother Nature’s current mood.
Andrea Delong-Amaya, Director of Horticulture at The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, is Texas’ go-to wildflower expert. “The seed bank could have been washed away and salts from displaced coastal waters could have inundated soils,” said Delong-Amaya. “However, some areas that saw a lot of vegetation loss might be primed for early successional flowers that don’t like competition such as bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, phlox and verbena.”
In other words, there’s a chance for some fantastic flower finds for families, so we scoured the state for the most popular and top-secret bluebonnet hot-spots, along with a few tips to make your Texas Bluebonnet Quest safe, fun and memorable for the whole family.
POTENTIAL BLUEBONNET PHOTO OPS
North • SPOTTS PARK: Walk the southeast side of the park, past the playground • TC JESTER PARK: White Oak Bayou between 18th and 43rd streets • ROB FLEMING PARK: In The Woodlands • MERCER ARBORETUM: Near Spring • KINGWOOD: High Valley Drive at Hidden Lakes East
West • BUFFALO BAYOU PARK: Try East of the Jackson Hill Bridge South • BLESSINGTON FARMS: in Wallis • TERRY HERSHEY PARK: Walking path winds along Buffalo Bayou near Dairy Ashford • MEMORIAL PARK: Various spots Outside of Houston
South • BRAYS BAYOU: Along the Hermann Park Golf Course near Almeda • TELFAIR IN SUGARLAND: Near Cornerstone Elementary • WILLOW WATERHOLE: Off of South Post Oak • LEAGUE CITY: Near Hwy 96 • PEARLAND TO ALVIN: Along Hwy 35 West
- INDEPENDENCE: Old Baylor Park at Windmill Hill (picnic tables and ruins of original Baylor University) • PLEASANT HILL: Pleasant Hill Winery overlooks vineyards surrounded bluebonnet fields • CHAPPEL HILL: Historic Main Street before, during & after the April festival • WASHINGTON-ON-THE-BRAZOS STATE PARK: A great walking trail along the Wildflower Loop • MARBLE FALLS: Check out the 400 acre Turkey Bend Recreation Area and Muleshoe Bend. You can even camp for a small fee. Also ask about the Bluebonnet House- when the flowers are blooming, it’s incredible. • KINGSLAND: Abandoned railroad tracks run through bluebonnet fields about a mile off FM 1431, as well as abandoned farm equipment on several rural roads for great photo ops. • FREDERICKSBURG TO LLANO: A drive along Highway 16 is an incredibly scenic drive through rolling hills and granite cliffs with stops along the way.
FESTIVALS & BLUEBONNET TRAILS
- CHAPEL HILL 54TH ANNUAL BLUEBONNET FESTIVAL April 14-15, 2018 (one hour drive west of Houston)
- BURNET 35TH BLUEBONNET FESTIVAL April 13-15, 2018 (four hour drive northwest of Houston)
- ENNIS BLUEBONNET TRAILS FESTIVAL April 20-22, 2018 (three hour drive north of Houston)
-ENNIS’ TEXAS BLUEBONNET TRAIL features more than 40 miles of well-marked routes beginning at Pierce Park and meandering along roads to Bristol Hill, Slate Rock and Sugar Ridge. Try the Big Blue House on Neck road in Palmer and a 13-acre spot on Sugar Ridge Road. For upto-date sightings, download the free mobile app: Ennis Ya’ll or visit visitennis.org
-WASHINGTON COUNTY BLUEBONNET TRAIL boasts 80 miles of bluebonnet trails through Brenham, visiting sites along the Brazos River, near Somerville Lake and through the historic town of Chapel Hill. From Houston, there are three popular driving loops off Hwy 290 to FM 390 through Independence; 290 to FM2502 through Greenvine; and Hwy 290 to FM1155 north through Chapel Hill. All these routes will be “pinned” with confirmed sightings on the Wildflower Watch page at visitbrenhamtexas.com
-LA GRANGE WILDFLOWER TRAILS wind through Fayette County. From Houston, take I-10 West to Columbus and then Hwy 71 just past La Grange to exit Hwy 159/237 northeast. From there, you’ll intersect with Hwy 290 at Burton and you can take Hwy 290 east to Brenham and then back to Houston. To make a loop, you could take Hwy 290 West to Giddings and Hwy 77 South to La Grange- back to Houston.
-HIGHLAND LAKES WILDFLOWER TRAIL loops through Texas’ Hill Country. From Houston, take I-10 West to Columbus and then Hwy 71 to Llano. Here, you’ll turn east on Hwy 29 until it crosses Hwy 1431 (near the west bank of Lake Buchanan). You have two choices- either go south to Kingsland and Marble Falls, or continue East on Hwy 29 to Inks Lake and Burnet. Eventually, you’ll make your way back to Hwy 281 South to Marble Falls and to the intersection of Hwy 71 to head home. lakesandhills.com
Statewide Bluebonnet Sightings & Updates
-TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION WILDFLOWER HOTLINE (800-452-9292) dial “three” for the live specialist to provide “upto-date” info.
-LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER, a research unit for the University of Texas, website: www.wildflower.org, as well as their Facebook and Instagram pages.
-FACEBOOK GROUPS TexasBlueBonnetSightings TexasWildflowerReport
- PARKING: Do NOT park on the shoulder lane of a highway. Feeder roads and winding county roads can also be dangerous. Find a safe place to park and walk a bit.
- NO TRESPASSING: Taking photos on Private Property is against the law no matter how pretty the blooms might be on the other side of the fence.
- SNAKES, CRITTERS, SCORPIANS & ANTS: Look closely at the spot you ask your child to sit or stand BEFORE you put them there! Use a long stick to poke around the area and sit on a rock, blanket or bring a chair. Bug spray and sunscreen are good bets, too. Look for holes in the ground which might be home to snakes or critters. You can count on plenty of fire ants, so inspect the area carefully.
PHOTO TAKING TIPS
- SUN: Place subject(s) with sun to the side or behind them and use a flash to combat the shadows.
- CLOSE UPS: A macro shot takes a tight zoom but get down on the ground and at eye-level of your subject. The effect is great with kids and flowers.
- HAVE FUN: You may have a perfect posed shot in mind, but if you also let your family play and act goofy, you’ll love the shots so much more. Take tons of photos and cross your fingers a few are keepers.
DID YOU KNOW?
There is no official law that makes it illegal to pick bluebonnets. However, TXDOT puts a whole lot of resources into buying and sowing about 30,000 pounds of wildflower seeds along our highways every year so we can ALL enjoy them. The bluebonnet’s seeds must whither and fall to the ground to grow in that spot the following year.