Bluebonnets at Turkey Bend Recreation Area

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s Turkey Bend Recreation Area is a prime pick for bluebonnet spotting. It’s located at 4000 Shaw Drive off RR 1431 in the Marble Falls-Spicewood area. File photo

The summer drought of 2023 coupled with a warmer-than-normal winter and regular bouts of rainfall is cultivating a bountiful bluebonnet season this spring in the Texas Hill Country, according to experts at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. 

The warmer winter also brought early blooms. The Texas State Flower sprouted its striking blue-and-white blossoms in mid-February. 

“On a scale from 1 to 10, (2024) looks like it could be an 8, for bluebonnets in particular, if not even better,” said Andrea DeLong-Amaya, the Wildflower Center’s director of Horticulture. “This fall and winter, we’ve enjoyed adequate rainfall that’s been well-spaced, which is really key to wildflower development.”

Rainfall influences the quantity of the blooms, DeLong-Amaya said, while sunlight and warmth effect the timing of the blooms. Warmer winters lead to early blooming bluebonnets and other spring wildflowers. 

Also key is the lack of competition for resources needed to grow. Last summer’s extreme drought killed many of the plants that might have otherwise choked out the more resistant bluebonnets. In fact, bluebonnets are more prone to die from overwatering than from a lack of water. 

“When we have extreme weather the prior summer, we see some plant mortality, which reduces competition in the soil and creates space for spring-blooming wildflowers,” said Matt O’Toole, the center’s director of Land Management. “Last summer’s drought likely helped this spring’s wildflower display.”

Other wildflowers are also popping up early in 2024 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and along roadways and in pastures. Texas star and golden-eye phlox have been spotted as well as perennials like golden groundsel and large buttercup.