Julie Marcus, the senior horticulturist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Southwest Austin, said the wildflowers are starting to bloom near highways such as MoPac and in other places with warmer “microclimates” that provide perfect environments for them to appear.
“You'll see things blooming in the Austin area a little earlier than you would as you start to go out into the Hill Country,” Marcus said.
Typically, bluebonnets bloom between the end of March and the middle of April, but some parts of Texas such as in Houston and farther east in Brenham will see them as early as mid-March, Marcus said. She said the flowers fare better in the soil in those areas, which allows them to appear earlier, but Central Texans can still expect to see them cover the region toward the end of the month.
“They don't just all bloom at once. It's just kind of a slow kind of a little rolling bloom,” Marcus said.
The Wildflower Center already has a few sprouting, Marcus said, near the family garden, for those who want to venture there to see them.
Other wildflowers to keep an eye out for include Indian Paintbrushes and Texas Stars, and Mexican plum and mountain laurel trees are also starting to bloom, Marcus said. Cactus flowers will also start to appear as the season goes on.
“Everybody always thinks it's just about the early spring bloomers like bluebonnets,” Marcus said. “We have a fabulous show, you know, mid-April to almost mid-June, which is really my favorite time just because we have more blooming. It's just more colors and all. But I know everybody likes the bluebonnets because that's the state flower.”
For people wanting to go seek them out in the wild, the Texas Department of Transportation recommends avoiding stopping along the side of highways whenever possible and to never walk in the shoulder, where cars may need to pull over in an emergency.
“Find that safe location. If you are in a roadway that has a much wider shoulder, much more space, you are more separated from the roadway,” TxDOT spokesman Adam Hammons said. “If you're on a country road where there's really no shoulder, there may not be a safe place to park. So, don't try and force it. There may be some beautiful wildflowers there, but it's not worth risking your life.”
The biggest thing to remember when parking along the roadway though is to make sure to be visible to any oncoming traffic, Hammons said. In some cases, this means avoiding areas with hills or curves that can block visibility.
“Wildflowers are such a big part of our state. It's something that we love, and we love that people have made it a tradition for decades,” Hammons said. “But really safety is our top priority, and so we just want people to park safely. ... Just pay attention around the road and everything that's going on around you. Just try and be as safe as possible and out there.”