It’s bigger in the Lone Star State, Texas wildflowers included. When winter turns into spring (yes we have winter) rural highways and byways explode with bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes and many more colorful flowers. Also exploding? Stupidity. Yes, a total disregard for safety as people strive to get that perfect bluebonnet picture. Here’s what to do and not do as you find those Texas bluebonnets.
What is the Texas Bluebonnet?
Bluebonnets are the state flower of Texas. This may sound simple but there was actually controversy over it. In 1901 the Lupinus subcarnosus was named as the state flower. The blue flowers are actually a species of lupine and there are many species of bluebonnets. Following years of arguing the Texas Legislature issued a 1971 resolution allowing Lupinus Texensis and other bluebonnets to also be included as the official state flower.
Today, many Texas bluebonnet pictures feature the Lupinus Texensis which is deeper and brighter in color and has more flowers per stem. The Lupinus subcarnosus, which is sometimes called the sandyland bluebonnet, is a lighter shade of bluish purple and has fewer flowers per stem. You’ll also see it referred to as buffalo clover which makes zero sense because there actually is a completely different plant called buffalo clover.
To see more bluebonnet images and learn why maroon bluebonnets exist and other fun facts we recommend checking out the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Bluebonnet Season in Central Texas
Bluebonnet Season (or what most of the U.S. would call “spring”) becomes a conquest of sorts in Central Texas. During Texas spring bluebonnet flowers pop up every March from San Antonio to Austin to Brenham and even stretching up to Ennis and Dallas. Much like the infamous “leaf peepers” of New England, Texas has its own breed of hard-core, never say die, and perhaps even fanatical seasonal botany enthusiasts that storm the countryside in search of the sights and smells of the bluebonnets. Our Yankee brethren may feel that no leaf peeping adventure is complete without coming home with a half-gallon of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup. Here in Texas the ultimate souvenir is the infamous “family bluebonnet pictures.”
This yearly pilgrimage to snap that perfect photo of little Johnny sitting in a field of bluebonnets may seem like a relatively mundane annual ritual. However, some people throw caution to the wind just to get that perfect picture of the baby laying in a bed of bluebonnets. EMS, Police, and Fire departments across this area of Texas all let out a collective groan as the first bluebonnets and Indian Paint Brushes (the orange/red sidekick to the bluebonnet), because they all know that their days at work are about to get “interesting.”
If you’re heading out to look for photo ops and spring wildflowers please keep the following safety tips in mind.
Texas Bluebonnet Pictures Dos and Don’ts
Looking for the perfect spots to see the Texas State Flower close up? We’ve got a full list of places to spot bluebonnets including Marble Falls (and the famous bluebonnet house), Llano, Muleshoe Bend, Willow City Loop, Houston, Brenham, the Texas Hill Country and more! Check it out here.
Bluebonnet Don’t: Don’t Stop on the Side of Highways
Highways are for AUTOMOBILES.
Yes, highways consisting of 4-6 lanes of traffic that allow a very liberal speed limit of 75 mph are for automobiles, and ONLY autos. Things that should not be on these highways (yes that includes the median and sides of the road) include babies, dogs, cats, Grandma, Grandpa, picnic baskets, the family parrot, or anything else that is not encased in steel and operated by a motor.
Do yourself a favor and resist the urge to come to a screeching halt in the left lane of a highway to get what you think would be a “great shot” (true story). If that little voice in your head is saying “this might be a bad idea,” now would be a good time to listen.
Would you let your toddler walk across a highway? No? Then don’t stop for pictures there.
Bluebonnet Do: Do Explore Texas Back Roads
There are many absolutely stunning back roads to be explored and enjoyed that have little to no additional traffic during the bluebonnet season, and are nearly full to bursting with bluebonnets and Indian paint brush gloriousness, so get off the beaten path and explore.
If you’re looking for REALLY off the beaten path bluebonnets head all the way west to Big Bend National Park or Big Bend Ranch State Park. The parks feature Lupinus Havardii (Chisos bluebonnets) which have a longer season but are not as “plump” and fluffy as traditional bluebonnets. Big Bend bluebonnets are in full bloom starting in mid-March and against the landscape look other-worldly.
Bluebonnet Don’t: Don’t Trespass on Private Property
Yes, there is the perfect patch of bluebonnets on the other side of the fence. No you should not scale the fence throwing the baby over to your partner to get a picture. Trespassing is against the law and Texans enjoy some very liberal personal property protection laws. Don’t do it.
Fun fact: Many people think picking bluebonnets is illegal. Technically, it’s not illegal but there are many reasons to leave bluebonnets in the wild. These native plants go back to seed every year. The next year’s crop depends on this natural germination process. So, if you want to take Texas bluebonnet pictures next year, leave them in the field.
Bluebonnet Do: Do Find Safe Locations to Pull Off the Road
Country churches have parking lots and many times picturesque scenery around them. Local businesses welcome bluebonnet tourists so make a stop out of it. Patronize a country store and take some safe (and legal) pictures on their property.
Parks and historical sites are other great spots to scope out.
Bluebonnet Don’t: Don’t Wear Sandals
Bluebonnets grow in fields in Texas. Do you know what else lives in fields in Texas?
Central Texas is home to a wide variety of snakes which should be avoided unless you plan to be the next Bear Grylls. If you do decide to go wading in a field of tall grass, know that you are in prime real estate for many of these particular serpents that range in poisonous levels from “uh-oh” to “holy crap.”
You know how Texans wear cowboy boots? It’s not just fashion – it’s practical. Wear proper footwear that covers the lower part of your leg when you’re walking in fields. And walk with an exaggeratedly heavy footfall so that the snake can feel the vibrations of you coming and get out of your way.
Be particularly cautious when stepping over large rocks or fallen trees. These are a favorite “hang-out” for our bitey friends.
Tip from a Paramedic: If you do happen to be one of the unlucky 37,500 Americans who is bitten by a venomous snake each year, DO NOT have someone try to “suck the venom out.” This does not work! It usually results in two patients instead of one for the paramedics to take care of and an embarrassing story for you to tell your grandchildren. Simply move away from the offending creature. Wash the area with soap and water and move the extremity as little as possible. Snake bites are rarely fatal, so try not to panic.
Creepy Crawlies and Things that Bite
Central Texas is also home to a virtual cornucopia of creepy crawlies including but not limited to: black widows, brown recluse spiders, scorpions, ticks, fire ants, bees, wasps, centipedes and tarantulas (yes…actual tarantulas that live in the wild).
The chances of you encountering some of nature’s more “unique” offerings are relatively slim. But nothing spoils a weekend family outing like accidentally sitting little Johnny down on a fire ant nest.
SheBuysTravel Tip: If someone is stung or bitten, watch for symptoms of an allergic reaction (hives, swelling, etc.). Have any? Seek medical attention immediately. If there is swelling of the tongue, mouth, lips, throat, difficulty swallowing or difficulty breathing, call 911 IMMEDIATELY. These anaphylactic reactions can progress quickly.
Bluebonnet Don’t: Don’t Forget That Not All Fauna is Friendly
Do a pre-selfie scan of the area you’re planning to sit or lie down in for that perfect picture. Be sure it is free of poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and sharp cacti. Be aware that some stinging plants like bull nettle resemble wildflowers!
SheBuysTravel Tip: Exposed to a scratchy friend? Wash the affected area with soap and water. If you do develop an itchy rash, it can usually be treated with over=the-counter creams and salves.
With all of that being said, it is a time honored tradition and a uniquely Texas experience to take photos in fields of Texas bluebonnets. When basic common sense and safely precautions are followed the experience is more enjoyable. Dress appropriately, keep an eye on your surroundings and take your annual photos.