April 08, 2024

Photo Essay: A Texas Superbloom of Bluebonnets in April

Had I known how spectacular the Bluebonnet Trail was in Ennis, Texas, it would've been on my bucket list

Even after I'd landed at DFW—and been looking out of the backseat window of my rideshare cars driving around to my various destinations—I hadn't yet realized what a big thing bluebonnets are in Texas, where all six species of them have served as the state flower since 1971.

Sure, I was seeing those patches of blue wildflowers along the sides of the roads and highways, sprouting up on every grassy-green median...

...but it wasn't until my friends picked me up and took me bluebonnet hunting that the visual and cultural impact really started to set in. 

We have former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, to thank for the widespread distribution of bluebonnet seeds along Texas roadsides—part of her freeway beautification program in 1969, towards the end of her term as FLOTUS. 

They're a Texas native version of lupine, a wildflower that's plenty familiar to Southern Californians (and Arizonans), the blue ones mostly Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) and Lupinus havardii (Big Bend bluebonnet). 

Along public roads, they continue to thrive so many decades later, thanks to the TxDOT's Wildflower Program—which re-seeds the disturbed soil the flowers prefer, and mows at just the right time to encourage regrowth. 

But along the Ennis Bluebonnet Trails, there are so many fields just bursting with color—especially in peak season, early April—I've got to think that they must be seed-bombing their own lawns. 

Although the deep blue is stunning, it gets particularly spectacular when in contrast against explosions of other colors. The orange outbursts setting the prairie ablaze (a.k.a. "prairie fire") are Texas Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa Engelm, not to be confused with the Southern California version, Castilleja lasiorhyncha).

One of our best discoveries along the way—one that allowed us to get closer to the blooms without trespassing on residential property—was the antique shop Telico Treasures. 

Of course, the etiquette remains the same...

Don't trample them, and don't take them home. 

We were so glad we'd taken the interior roads of Ennis's South Trail (like Old Telico Road) instead of sticking to the highways and busier main roads—and not just to catch glimpses of the red-colored crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) sticking up from between the clusters of blue leaflets. 

We also got to say hi (from afar) to a donkey lounging in the lushness!

Some local doggies also said hi as we rolled slowly down the road trying to get the perfect photos and find the perfect place to pull over. 

We bent at the waist trying to get clear close-ups and a dramatic depth of field...

...and capture the tiniest of sprouts... fire ants crawled to the tops of my bare, sandaled feet and up inside the cuffs of my pants, stinging between my toes and around my ankles.
Every pull-over spot we chose seemed to offer something different than the one before...

...and we never tired of seeing bluebonnets, even as they seemed to get sparser...

...and give way to less densely-populated flowers that weren't bluebonnets (like blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium).

And just as we thought we'd reached the end of the trail...

...we'd spot something in the distance...

...and find an even better blanket of color...

...including one electric-yellow swath that was as good as (if not better than) any "superbloom" I've ever seen. 
And just as soon as they appeared, the yellow daisies gave way to more bluebonnets...

...too frequent and too widespread to park and stop to document every time.
At least, we thought. And as soon as we'd pass one, one of us in the car would call out, "Go back!" or "Back up!" and we'd find yet another reason to once again take a closer look.

We weren't the only ones—but we had plenty of room to ourselves, far from the traffic jams and social media influencers that plague the wildflower blooms of Southern California.

We were in cattle ranching territory, but we weren't too worried about the blossoms getting nibbled up. These types of flowers actually do best on grazing lands.

And even Bigfoot came out during daytime—and tiptoed gingerly through the fields—to enjoy the wildflowers. 
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