Where to look for Texas bluebonnets «

    Where to look for Texas bluebonnets

    Recent predictions that the 2011 Texas bluebonnet season may be modest aren’t cause for singing the blues. A modest bluebonnet season coming on the heels of an abundant 2010 season, which followed a drought-depressed 2009 season, illustrates how roller-coaster extremes of Texas weather impact wildflowers. You should be able to see bluebonnets and other wildflowers, but don’t base your expectations on flowers you saw last year or on the average date they bloom during years without strong freezes during late winter. This hasn’t been a typical year. In many parts of Texas, especially along highways, wildflower seeds are spread for beautification by communities and the Texas Department of Transportation. During good years, many flowers reseed themselves for the next season, but people are available to help at other times. Peak season for blooms typically is during the first two weeks of April in Austin and the Texas Hill Country, earlier in warmer areas, and later in areas with cooler weather. Here are some of the places where bluebonnets typically can be seen in bloom. This year, the display of blue already has started in the Hill Country and may occur later in areas north of there, says Saralee Tiede, director of communications for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Local weather, especially fall rain, impacts bluebonnet blooms, she says. For updates on bloom sightings, the Texas highway department (TXDOT) operates a wildflower hotline at 1-800-452-9292 and posts online updates at www.txdot.gov/travel/flora_conditions.htm. Kara Kunkel is a Dallas freelance writer. Finding bluebonnets POPULAR WILDFLOWER VIEWING SITES Texas Hill Country , a 25-county region in the heart of Texas, loosely defined as an area from Austin on the east to San Antonio on the south to Lampasas on the north and to Junction on the west. Washington County in south central Texas, especially areas around Brenham and in Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park. Washington County is considered the birthplace of Texas, and this hub for Texas patriotism typically creates a spectacular display of bluebonnets along roads of all sizes. Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau, 979-836-3695; www.brenhamtexas.com. Areas around Fredericksburg including Wildseed Farms, a nursery and 200-acre wildflower farm seven miles east of town. 1-800-848-0078; www.wildseedfarms.com. Along major highways, where TXDOT scatters 30,000 pounds of wildflower seed per year. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. The Wildflower Days festival is March 14-May 31. The center provides places to take photos amid bluebonnets. 512-232-0100; www.wildflower.org. Texas state parks such as Enchanted Rock State Natural Area near Fredericksburg, Inks Lake State Park near Burnet, Palmetto State Park near Gonzales and Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site near Stonewall. www.tpwd.state.tx.us. South Texas near Gonzales and Victoria, especially along U.S. Highway 183 and State Highway 84. 1-888-672-1095. State parks along the Gulf Coast such as Goose Island State Park near Rockport, which offers wildflower walks. 361-729-2858; www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Big Bend Ranch State Park near Presidio has desert bluebonnets. 432-358-4444; www.tpwd.state.tx.us. Independence: Old Baylor Park is a favorite bluebonnet site a half-mile west of town on FM390, the former site of Baylor Female College. Independence is a small community in northeastern Washington County. www.independencetx.com. BLUEBONNET & WILDFLOWER UPDATES Texas Department of Transportation: wildflower hotline at 1-800-452-9292 and online updates at www.txdot.gov/travel/flora_conditions.htm. Brenham area (Washington County): Wildflower Watch online at www.brenhamtexas.com/WildflowerWatch.htm. Bluebonnet Cam: Spy on bluebonnets at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center when they are in bloom, at www.wildflower.org/bbcam. FESTIVALS Burnet: Bluebonnet Festival, April 8-10. Burnet was designated the “Bluebonnet Capital of Texas” in 1979. Burnet Chamber of Commerce, 512-756-4297 Chappell Hill: Bluebonnet Festival of Texas (designated by the state the “official” Texas bluebonnet festival in 1997), April 9-10, Chappell Hill Historical Society, 979-836-6033; www.chappellhillmuseum.org. Ennis: Bluebonnet Trails Festival, April 16-17; arts and crafts, food, music, bluebonnet souvenirs, children's activities; Ennis Garden Club; 972-878-4748; www.visitennis.org. TRAILS Ennis: Designated in 1997 by the state Legislature as the “Official Bluebonnet City of Texas” and home of the state's “Official Texas Bluebonnet Trail.” April 1-30, Ennis Garden Club showcases 40 miles of mapped bluebonnet trails. Organizers say blooms typically peak during the third week of April. Call for a bluebonnet update before visiting. 972-878-4748; www.visitennis.org. Cuero: DeWitt County Lanes and Byways, April 1-30; free self-guided driving tours by the DeWitt County Wildflower Association; 361-275-9942; www.dewittwildflowers.org. Texas Bluebonnet, Wine & Cheese Trail: Wineries in eight towns in south central Texas offer three weekends of tours and tastings during bluebonnet season — April 2-3, April 9-10 and April 16-17. www.texasbluebonnetwinetrail.com. Bluebonnet etiquette Don’t trample or pick the flowers because you’ll prevent people who arrive later from seeing bluebonnets in bloom. Lost blooms also reduce the number of seeds that produce next year's bluebonnets.

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