Violet, orange, magenta and yellow… these are only a few of the colors Texas wildflowers paint along our states roads and prairies.
Often referred to as the “I-35 bouquet” – seasonal wildflowers like the Indian Paintbrush, Pink Evening Primrose, Winecup, Coreopsis – and of course – the Bluebonnet, bloom every spring across Central Texas roadsides.
But how do they get there?
Horticulturist Leslie Uppinghouse with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center explains big ditches along the sides of Texas’ country and rural ranch roads carry wildflower seeds during heavy rain events. These seeds collect in those ditches, settle, propagate and germinate…. which can result in ‘big waves’ of wildflowers right along the highway.
The Texas Department of Transportation saw the importance of these wildflowers long ago, not only for their beauty but for their ability to prevent soil erosion, and established a Wildflower Program in the 1930s.
TXDOT now postpones most seasonal mowing until after wildflower season… while also buying and sowing nearly 30,000 pounds of wildflower seeds each year along more than 800,000 miles of roadway.
In the 1950s, Texas-native Lady Bird Johnson helped lead Congress to pass ‘the Highway Beautification Act’ aimed at preserving the natural beauty along America’s highways. She later established a National Wildflower Research Center right here in Austin, renamed to what is now the ‘Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center’, with a mission to conserve native plants through research and education.
With more vibrant and bright colored wildflowers tending to bloom earlier in the season and lighter, paler colored flowers seen later in the spring… these plants maximize the weather, soil and terrain to thrive here in the Lone Star State.
And although it’s not illegal to pick a Texas wildflower, you’re encouraged to let them be. Whether that means delicately choosing your photo spot in a field of bluebonnets… or just enjoying the view along the car ride home.