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Mild Winter Brings Bluebonnets a Bit Earlier Than Usual

bluebonnets.JPG
Syeda Hasan/KUT
Bluebonnets are back and, it seems, the warmer winter has hastened this year's crop of the state flower.

If you’ve taken a drive through Central Texas lately, you might have noticed that bluebonnets are already dotting some roadsides, which prompted some to ask whether state's famous flower is early or right on time this year.

Just a few days into spring, but it’s not completely out of the ordinary to see bluebonnets this early. 

“Yeah this isn’t totally crazy. It’s within the realm of normal, but it’s a little on the early side,” says Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. “I was a little bit nervous at the beginning of the year because things were a little bit dryer, like in January and February. And then the weather started getting more normal and we started getting more normal rainfall, and that’s helped a lot.”

Bluebonnets may bloom and be gone in a month, but, since they’re annuals, their life cycle continues throughout the year. DeLong-Amaya says the flowers’ early growth this year is a result of weather conditions across all four seasons and that there are a lot of factors to consider.

“I think the warm weather and the nice sun that we’ve been having, you know,” she says. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a hard freeze, and so I think everything’s a little faster than normal.”

That weather has been good for other Texas wildflowers too. DeLong-Amaya says a lot of visitors ask her about “those orange bluebonnets.”

“They are actually Indian paintbrush, but they’re kind of the same size and have vaguely the same shape as the bluebonnets, but the bright orange is so spectacular and such a brilliant color,” she says. “They like similar conditions. You see them growing a lot on roadsides where it’s been mowed, and they don’t have a lot of competition with bigger grasses and other pushy things.”

So, now that the wildflowers are up, it's time for Texans to take the traditional bluebonnet pictures. DeLong-Amaya has a few safety tips before you drop your toddler in a patch of flowers.

“People need to be really careful if they’re going to go on the roadside to get their bluebonnet pictures taken because roadsides can be very dangerous,” she says. “Obviously there’s traffic, but there are other hazards too like look out for fire ant mounds and possibly rattlesnakes.”

As far as that age-old myth that picking bluebonnets is illegal, DeLong-Amaya says it’s not true, but be careful not to pick too many. We need enough flowers around to leave seeds for next year’s bloom.

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