Bluebonnet Notes: 2020 Bluebonnet Season Review

April 13, 2020  |  Big Bend, South Texas, Texas Hill Country

As the 2020 bluebonnet season draws to a close, a brief review of each region's bloom is in order so that the predictions made prior to the season can be evaluated, and so that there is a record of what took place for posterity's sake. Each region is rated on a scale of 1-5. Obviously, with limited time one can only cover so much of any given area, and all opinions regarding bloom quality are subjective. The ratings are assigned as follows:

  • 1 - Bad (ex. 2018 Texas Hill Country)
  • 2 - Could have been better
  • 3 - Good
  • 4 - Great
  • 5 - Outstanding (ex. 2010 Texas Hill Country, 2019 Big Bend)

The Big Bend

As predicted, the 2020 bluebonnet season in the Big Bend was rather poor. The only bluebonnets to be found were located along roadsides throughout both Big Bend National Park and River Road (FM 170) in Big Bend Ranch State Park. Roadside displays also extended north of Study Butte heading toward Alpine. I spent February 28 through March 1 driving the park roads and can count on one hand the number of bluebonnets I saw away from the road.

There was a noticeable separation in bloom time between the flowers in the higher elevations on the road between Persimmon Gap and Panther Junction and those nearer to the river. The higher elevation bluebonnets had barely begun to bloom, while the lower elevation bluebonnets were at peak, with some already going to seed.

Though this outcome was expected, it was a disappointment nonetheless, especially when compared to last year's superbloom which was the best bluebonnet bloom in memory.

Rating: 1 - Roadside blooms were pretty decent in several places, but overall it was bad.

South Texas

Though my prediction for the 2020 bluebonnet season in South Texas was close, it was not entirely correct. The season actually turned out to be worse than I had thought it would be.

On March 14 I spent the day driving through Gonzales, DeWitt, Wilson, Atascosa, and Medina Counties, exploring areas that I had never been before as well as visiting areas that are known to have good displays of bluebonnets. I was able to find a few spots with bluebonnets in Gonzales County though they were few and far between, and bluebonnets were almost non existent in the places I saw in DeWitt and Wilson Counties. I did manage to find one particular road in Atascosa County which had bluebonnets, however, the displays were not significant enough to stop for.

I was also able to find a few nice displays of white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora) in Atascosa County, as well as a field that has the potential to be filled with rose prickly poppies (Argemone sanguinea) some year when the conditions are better.

It goes without saying that the 2020 bluebonnet season in South Texas was a big disappointment, perhaps more so than in the Big Bend since it was worse than I expected it to be. The situation was such that I saw no reason to return after driving it for only one day.

Rating: 1.5 - Very poor display, but the 2018 bluebonnet season was even worse.

Texas Hill Country

The Texas Hill Country was the highlight of the 2020 bluebonnet season, though in this particular year that isn't saying much. My prediction for this region was correct in some aspects, but a little overoptimistic.

I spent multiple days in late March and early April traversing the Texas Hill Country, including parts of Blanco, Burnet, Llano, Mason, McCulloch, and San Saba Counties. Though there were decent displays scattered here and there throughout the area, the best areas were found in the western half of the Llano Uplift in Mason County. The bloom overall was early due to the above average temperatures, especially so in Burnet County and to a lesser extent in Llano County.

One particular road in Mason County was as good as I have ever seen it since I first started driving it back in 2012. Although it is a very scenic stretch of country which I very much enjoy driving, it is so dense with brush that I did not make any bluebonnet photographs along it. A second road, which is known for its bluebonnet displays, also had a fair number of flowers though not nearly as many as it has had in the past.

Overall, it was a down year for bluebonnets in the Texas Hill Country, but as far as I'm concerned this region saved the 2020 bluebonnet season.

Rating: 2 - Below average. No large, uninterrupted displays were found.

Ennis, Brenham, and the rest of Texas

Of course the three areas which I explore every year are not the only areas of Texas which have bluebonnets. The areas around Ennis and Brenham are both noted for their displays of bluebonnets and there are many other places which may not have the notoriety of the above mentioned regions but are beautiful nonetheless. If you happened to visit any of these areas this year please leave me a comment below and let me know how they looked this year.

In addition to the disappointment due to the lack of blooms, I decided to cancel the plans I had made to explore East Texas in search of the sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis) due to the coronavirus pandemic affecting the nation. Overall, I can't imagine the 2020 bluebonnet season being too much worse, but years like this are what makes the good years all the more enjoyable.

So, here's to plenty of fall and winter rain and cool fall and winter temperatures in 2020/2021, and hopefully next year will be filled with waves upon waves of blue.

2017033004, Earth shadow over field of Texas bluebonnets

The earth's shadow over a field of Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) in San Saba County in the Texas Hill Country during the 2017 bluebonnet season. Prints and licensing available.