It happens each year as if by magic. A few patches of wildflowers pop up followed by whole fields. Soon enough, South Texas is alive with color. If you want to make the most of the short season, it’s good to have a plan.
The San Antonio area enjoys plenty of spring blooms, including the usual bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, pink evening primroses, and winecups. More unique flowers seen in this 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 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 flowers. Be aware that wildflower fields can also contain fire ants and possibly snakes. 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. Besides, festivals and parks provide ready public access.
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.
Known as the Wildflower Capital of Texas, DeWitt County celebrates Wildflower Month in April. Places to enjoy it include a 132-mile loop formed by U.S. Highway 181 from San Antonio to Kenedy, Farm-to-Market Road 792 to Texas State Highway 80 to Nixon, east on U.S. Highway 87 toward Westhoff, then south to U.S. Highway 183/U.S. Highway 77A to Goliad, and the back to Kenedy on Texas State Highway 239 East. More than 1,000 different species have been documented on this route, according to the Wildflower Center. The Cuero Chamber of Commerce provides maps of the area’s wildflower trails.
Goliad State Park and Historic Site
This park, nestled on the banks of the San Antonio River, has several good wildflower spots, including near Cardinal’s Haven Blind, the Longhorn tent camping area, and fields along the road to the Jacales camping area. Expect a slightly different color blend created by Huisache daisies, phlox, coreopsis, and rose prickly poppies. Drive south on U.S. Highway 183 and cross the San Antonio River to see fields of flowers in front of historic Presidio la Bahia.
Government Canyon State Natural Area
This 12,000-acre State Natural Area right in the city has 40 miles of trails. Interpreter John Koepke reports that all of its trails offer good wildflower viewing. The Frontcountry Trail, Savannah Loop, Lytle’s Loop, and the ADA-accessible Discovery Trail all offer fairly easy hiking and a nice variety of blooms. The Backcountry trails prove more challenging and have less variety of flowers, but more rugged, scenic backdrops for photos. Visitors enjoy a large variety of blooming trees, shrubs, and cacti as well, including Spanish dagger, sotol, horsecrippler, agarita, mountain laurel, huisache, and redbud. Guided wildflower walks are offered in March and April.
Guadalupe River State Park
Four miles of river frontage and 13 miles of hike-and-bike trails are reason enough to visit this park just outside of San Antonio. Spring wildflowers are an added attraction in the Edwards Plateau landscape of its uplands. Park rangers offer related special events including a guided wildflower walk on March 12 and The Legend of the Bluebonnet reading and hike on March 30.