See recent update
[Feb. 12, 2012: This article has been significantly updated and re-written for 2012. It may be further updated as the season progresses. – Mike]
If you live in Texas, the next several weeks (usually in March, possibly April) are the prettiest time to get out of the city and see the open road. Due to the drought, 2011 was a very disappointing year for wildflower lovers, but 2012 is ripe with possibilities.
We’ve had some decent rains recently, and mild weather. Wildflower forecasters are guardedly optimistic. (See links below)
Largely because of Lady Bird Johnson’s push for highway beautification in the 1960s, Texas highways are full of beautiful blossoming wildflowers this time of year, particularly bluebonnets. The best places to see these lovelies are typically in the Hill Country and Piney Woods of east Texas.
Living in Houston, my preferred routes are US-290 between Houston and Austin, or I-10 between Houston and San Antonio. If you have the time or inclination to detour off those roads and want to have a chance to pass through some small Texas towns, there is also plenty to see in fields left fallow along the smaller country roads. One option for that course is to go out I-10 west from Houston, exit at Hwy 36/Sealy (heading north), swing up to Brenham, and then take US-290 East back toward Houston.
You can also find more information on bluebonnet- and wildflower-seeing at the following links:
OTHER WILDFLOWER REPORTS:
Wildflower Haven – wildflower reports, maps and other useful information
TxDOT Wildflower Hotline – wildflower reports and maps from the TX Dept of Transportation
Big Bend Report – wildflower conditions from DesertUSA website
The Texas Tripper: On The Trail Of Bluebonnets: “Each April 24, Texas celebrates State Wildflower Day, and many cities have pageants, parades, and other celebrations. A partial listing of cities includes Mason, Chappell Hill, Keney, Glen Rose, Ennis, and Hughes Springs. The best way to learn what is scheduled is to contact the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, TX 78739, (512) 292-4100
“During March, April, and May, the Department of Transportation also has a telephone hotline with information on where bluebonnets are blooming: (800) 452-9292″