Bluebonnets (photo: dlhanry/flickr)

I love wildflowers. Since the days of Ladybird Johnson, Texas has made an effort to promote and protect wildflowers. So powerful is her legacy and so fond her memory that even the most right wing conservative in an already extreme Legislature doesn’t dare speak a word against her or the legacy she has left us.

The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center still has a lot of clout in political circles so their funding has been pretty stable in these days of budget cuts to everything else except football. In association with the University of Texas at Austin, they promote the preservation of wildflowers on Texas highways, education and conservation. This has led to the seemingly anomalous existence in a staunchly conservative state of some of the most beautiful and most fiercely protected and cherished wildflower areas in the world.

In addition to several wildflower trails that are marked and maintained from the coastal plain to the Hill county, to the high plateaus, almost any highway in the state of Texas can provide breathtaking vistas in a good year. Sweeping, long hillsides, redolent in a sea of bluebonnets that give way to brilliant, flaming indian paintbrushes and pale pink buttercups. There are also Texas azaleas, which smell of honeysuckle and are a great place for a child to spend a Spring or Summer afternoon, nestled among the dense foliage. Then there are my favorite scenes of many kinds of native wildflowers seemingly thrown out randomly onto the ground by the handsful for all to be stunned by.

I have a favorite Spring activity which is to pick a fine weekend day and go for a wildflower drive. Last year I was unable to indulge this as I was living on a very fixed income and because, due to the drought, I would have spent the money in gasoline just to be disappointed. I saw a few local bluebonnets which struggled up through the dessicated soil, went *erk* and keeled over. 2012 is shaping up to be a good year though as we have had six weeks of pretty rainy weather. I even took this picture of some bluebonnets that have been living in a large pot on my porch for a couple of years that were showing buds in the middle of February! Issues about global climate change aside, that bodes well for the quality and quantity of wildflowers this year. If March holds that pattern, we could be in for another 2005, when my drive took me south on 183 from Austin to Luling and there were literally fields and fields in which you couldn’t see more than a tuft or two of green in the oceans of blue.

I’ve been excitedly planning my trip. I’ll leave San Antonio east on I-10 and go out to 71 near Columbus and take a left toward LaGrange and Austin. There are some hills outside LaGrange where the paintbrushes and the bluebonnets wage war to find which has the greater splendor. From there I’ll go through Austin and Dripping Springs on 290 where there is usually a great mix of abundant wildflowers and then turn back south on 281 and be treated to some of the most stunning concentrations of hillside bluebonnets that you can find in central Texas. This route will trace out a large triangle centered around the Canyon Lake area and take in some of the best highway wildflower viewing of my experience. Maybe I can get tejanarusa to accompany me…

That’s the topic then this week. What kinds of wildflowers do you have in your area and do you pack a lunch, grab a camera and make a day of viewing them? Or are there other Spring activities that you enjoy to celebrate being able to be outdoors again?

Today is also my sister’s birthday so happy birthday Kel and good luck in your new job and your new home!