Texas Bluebonnets Putting on a Show

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- They're bright, blue and beloved. And they're showing themselves in small patches along highways.

Bluebonnets are blossoming, signaling the arrival of spring and ushering in Texans' annual love affair with the famous wildflower.

Relatively dry weather the past few months should make for only an average Texas bluebonnet season, but moist conditions in the weeks to come could strengthen the display, said Andrea DeLong-Amaya, horticulture director at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.

"The rain is good," she said. "A lot of the bluebonnets have germinated and they're just kind of waiting to get bigger."

The bluebonnet is the state's official flower and can be found throughout Texas, often accompanied on roadsides by an orange-colored wildflower known as Indian paintbrush. The Hill Country region and areas near Brenham in Central Texas are considered prime bluebonnet viewing spots.

Though peak bluebonnet season is not easy to pinpoint, it typically comes in the first couple of weeks of April, DeLong-Amaya said. Blooms tend to occur earlier farther south in the state where weather is warmer.

Several Web sites are devoted to Texas wildflower sightings. The Texas Department of Transportation keeps travelers updated with Web postings and its highway hotline at 800-452-9292. The agency also provides listings of numerous wildflower festivals.

"Counties will report to us where the really nice locations for wildflowers are," said Mark Cross, transportation department spokesman. "Everybody wants to know."

Texas transportation officials sow some 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed per year along highways. To keep the flowers from being trampled, admirers are encouraged to take their pictures from afar, and picking the flowers is frowned upon.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, founded by the late first lady known for her love of native plants, hosts "Wildflower Days" through April 30 to show off bluebonnets and other wildflowers. It provides spots for taking photos in its gardens.

Among the native plants in bloom now, said DeLong-Amaya, are the pink evening-primrose, Mexican plum, Redbud and Texas mountain-laurel.

For those who want a patch of Texas bluebonnets in their own yards, seeds should be planted in late summer and fall, from August to November, in plenty of time for an early spring bloom, DeLong-Amaya said.

Of course, there's a shortcut.

Four-inch bluebonnet plants can be purchased and planted now. That should also get seeds going for next year's batch. Bluebonnets do well in bare soil, and not in competition with other plants.


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