SPRING RITUAL

Where to find the Hill Country's best bluebonnets and wildflowers

Bluebonnet season is just around the bend. Photo by Kelly Keelan

This article originally appeared on CultureMap and was written by Melissa Gaskill.

It happens each year as if by magic. A few patches of wildflowers pop up followed by whole fields. Soon enough, Texas is alive with color. If you want to make the most of the short season, it's good to have a plan.

While bluebonnets enjoy the most fame, and the title of official state flower, Texas Hill Country landscapes offer a number of other abundant blooms, including Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, pink evening primrose, Mexican hat, winecups, black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, and more. South Texas also enjoys plenty of spring blooms, including the usual bluebonnets. More unique flowers seen in the area include hairy tube-tongue, scarlet or tropical sage, blue shrub sage, red prickly poppy, and Mexican prickly poppy.

Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, predicts bluebonnets peaking this year in late March or early April, depending on temperatures. "It's a prediction, I don't have a crystal ball," she cautions. The month of April, she adds, is spectacular in general. "Even once the bluebonnets finish up, there are so many other things coming on. There is life after bluebonnets!"

Know before you go

Remember that while it isn't illegal to pick the blooms, it is bad form. Leave them for others to enjoy and so the flowers can go to seed and make more for next year. By the same token, minimize trampling of the plants. DeLong-Amaya says that crushing the plants repeatedly (by, say, sitting on them) can destroy the flowers. Be aware that fields can also contain fire ants and the occasional snake. Be careful if walking through grass where it's not possible to see where you're stepping.

Finally, be respectful of private property — no climbing fences, going through gates, or driving up driveways to get that photo. You might get a less-than-warm welcome. Places like the Wildflower Center and parks provide ready public access to wildflowers.

Central Texas spots

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

For some of the most reliable and accessible wildflowers, head to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, roughly 12 miles southwest of downtown. Open daily 9 am to 5 pm, it's free for members, $12 adults, $6 children ages 5 to 17, plus discounts for students and seniors. The center has native gardens, wild meadows, and experts who can tell you what you're looking at.

LBJ State Park and Historic Site

Get up close, without worrying about a shotgun-toting landowner or highway traffic, at LBJ State Park and Historic Site near Johnson City. It should come as no surprise that the park enjoys fame for its wildflowers, as Lady Bird Johnson deserves much credit for appreciation of them in Texas. Meadows surround the visitor center, and a nature trail wanders from there to the adjacent Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm. Fredericksburg Trolley offers wildflower tours of the area in its vintage vehicles.

Pedernales River Nature Park

This 222-acre LCRA park off U.S. Highway 281 in Johnson City has lake and river frontage as well as hiking and mountain biking trails. It also has spectacular displays of the usual Texas Hill Country wildflowers (bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, pink evening primroses, winecups, and the like) easily and safely accessible for those obligatory photographs.

Burnet

The town of Burnet north of Austin claims the title of Bluebonnet Capital of Texas. The town holds a Bluebonnet Festival the second weekend of April that includes live music, a carnival, food, races, birding and, of course, looking at flowers. Blooms line the highways in this area; some of the best are State Highway 29 from Burnet to Llano and Ranch Road 2341 from State Highway 29 to Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park, where some of its many miles of trails wind among wildflowers.

Georgetown

One of the few locations in the U.S. where red poppies grow naturally, Georgetown celebrates with the 20th Annual Red Poppy Festival April 26-28. The free, three-day festival includes parades, a car show, live music, cooking contest, art, food, and family-friendly activities. Henry Purl Compton, a soldier in Europe during World War I, sent poppy seeds to his mother, who planted them at her home in Georgetown. The flowers spread and today bloom abundantly in the area around the town square.

Willow City Loop

Wildflower drives are a long-standing Texas tradition, and one of the best in Central Texas is the 13-mile, two-lane Willow City Loop. Roadside property along this route is private, so no wandering into the fields. Or out into traffic.

South Texas spots

Bandera

Driving Texas State Highway 16 from Bandera to Ranch Road 337 and then heading west toward Vanderpool and Leakey offers plenty of scenery any time, including glimpses of the Medina River, but in spring, wildflowers sweeten the route. Farm-to-Market Road 470 west from Bandera to Tarpley is another option, as are the roads around Utopia. The 5,000 acres of Hill Country State Natural Area have miles of trails through a variety of landscapes with abundant bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, primroses, firewheels, wild petunias, and more.

Blanco State Park

The Blanco River flows through this small park just an hour from San Antonio, where bluebonnet, Engelmann daisy, Texas paintbrush, firewheel, greenthread, and four-nerve daisy wildflowers bloom in spring. Enjoy picnic areas, camping, screened shelters, fishing, and kayak and tube rentals.

Continue reading on CultureMap to learn about more places to find the best bluebonnets.

And now, Houston's best 5K and 10K races.

Houston's best bucket list races within 30 miles

Photo via: Pixabay.com

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

I published my list of world's best bucket list races. Last week, I wrote about the best races in the US. There is one last list to complete this series: The best races in Houston. They are not only easier because they are local, but they are 5K and 10K races. These races are great starter races. They are also the best because they have great giveaways. So get your pens out and started planning your races.

Hot Undies Run

June 22, 2019

Our awesome party-loving friends at FFP (Fun, Fitness, and Philanthropy) have built this event up to what it is today. A lot of beer-loving, underwear clad Houstonians running for a cause. The Hot Undies Run is a 2 mile pub crawl that takes place every year in Rice Village.

The cause, this year, is for Girls on the Run, a non-profit that empowers young girls through the sport of running. This run has raised $80,000 in donations to date. Community partners Buffalo Bayou Brewing keep this party going with their local brew. Just to let you know how live this party gets. You can hear tales of runners chugging beer from one participant's prosthetic limb.

9/11 Heroes Run

September 7, 2019

The 9/11 Heroes Run is for runners, walkers, and ruckers who want to show appreciation and support for the fallen soldiers and first responders of September 11. This event takes place at City Hall. It is put on by the Travis Manion Foundation. This race is held all over the world and proceeds go to help veterans and their families thrive.

If you are like me, you are probably wondering what a rucker is. It is a participant who dresses up in full soldier and fireman gear to complete the race.

Photo via: Pixabay.com

Run Houston! Clear Lake

September 22, 2019

So, I'm going to be honest. Run Houston! Race Series was not really an original choice for me. Fred gave me this idea. If you remember, he wrote an article last year on his virtual race in San Fransisco. I got to see his medal and it was a beaut. Coming up on September, 22, you can run a 5K or 10K race on the University of Houston Campus. This is Race #4 in the 5 Race Series. Other locations include Sugarland, Sam Houston Park, Minute Maid Park, and Clear Lake. Don't let Fred be the only one to collect all 5!

Hot Chocolate Run

February 1, 2020

This race starts from Hermann Square and is for the biggest chocolate aficionados. Hot Chocolate Run is a 5K or 10K race. You get exercise and at the end each runner gets an awesome medal decorated like chocolate as well as a fondue tray with a banana, rice crispy treats and other dippables. That sounds all cool, but I think the best thing is instead of a t-shirt, you get this awesome hoodie! I'm running it for the hoodie.

Bayou City Classic

March 14, 2020

This is my favorite 5k and 10K race. It takes place at City Hall every St. Patty's Day Weekend. This is the oldest 10K race in Houston and benefits Houston Parks Department. Things that you can expect to see are music at every corner. Bagpipes. The Blues Brothers, and Gypsy Dancers.

The costumes. Oh the costumes. One year, there was a centipede dressed as a St. Arnold's Beer six pack. There were 2 girls dressed as the 80's. And the cutest kids ever. I can't go on enough about this race. The last thing, you get the most giveaways at the Bayou City Classic. Usually, there are a couple protein bars, but when you leave, you bag is filled to the brim with goodies. All this makes the Bayou City Classic my pick for first time 5K's.

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