Disclaimer: I am neither a botanist nor a meteorologist. I am simply someone who loves bluebonnets and has been hunting them and trying to learn more about them since 2010. I write these each year for myself so that I can have a record of what my thoughts were at the time. If you are interested in my track record for accuracy, my past predictions and reviews from previous years can be found here. Predicting a bluebonnet season is difficult to do with accuracy due to the fact that there are so many different factors are involved in a bloom that are impossible to evaluate. Each wildflower season is unique and presents different opportunities.
As February begins to wind down, we find that bluebonnet season is upon us once again. We are now four years into a drought that has not been kind to the wildflowers, and unfortunately, it persists. Though there are many contributing factors for a bluebonnet bloom, the most important by far is rainfall, on which the first three articles of this four-part series will focus. I will also briefly mention that cooler winter and spring temperatures benefit bluebonnets moreso than warmer temperatures, and if you were not aware, January 2023 was the seventh warmest on record and February has not deviated from that trend. Because the purpose of this series of articles is only to attempt to identify the locations that are most likely to have bluebonnets, rainfall is the only bloom factor that is examined.
So without further ado, let's look at the rainfall data from the Big Bend in West Texas, since bluebonnets here generally bloom earlier than in any other location. Below, rainfall maps showing the departure from normal rainfall are presented for each month from September 2022 to January 2023.
Seed germination period
I believe that rainfall during what I term the seed germination period is more crucial for bluebonnet development than rainfall during any other period. The germination period runs from sometime in September to sometime in November. This doesn't mean that bluebonnet seeds can't germinate during other months of the year, just that this is when the large majority of them will germinate, if they are going to do so.
Rainfall from September to November 2022 was average or below average across most of the Big Bend region. September saw slightly above average totals just west of Castolon, and October saw slightly above average totals around the Chisos Mountains and Persimmon Gap. While these maps look better than last year's maps did, they still aren't going to have produced many germinated seeds.
For reference, see below what the September and October of 2018 departure from normal rainfall map looked like preceding the 2019 bluebonnet season (the best season that anyone can remember in this region).
As you can see there is a significant difference between what fell in the past few months and what is needed for a great bluebonnet season.
Rosette development period
The rosette development period runs from sometime in November to sometime in February. This is the period when bluebonnet rosettes are going through a process known as vernalization and developing their root structure. While rainfall is still important during this time, it is not as important as it is during the seed germination period.
During December 2022 and January 2023 the entire Big Bend region saw mostly average rainfall. February 2023 data is not available at the time of this writing.
2023 Big Bend bluebonnet forecast
I have been to Big Bend during the 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 bluebonnet seasons, a relatively small sample size. In that time it has been my experience that it's either boom or bust in this region, and I feel pretty confident saying that this year is going to be another bust. Look for bluebonnets along roadsides and in desert washes but don't expect much more than that. It should, however, be a slightly better display than it was last year. If I had to pick the best areas to potentially see bluebonnets I would say roadsides in the vicinity of Persimmon Gap, north and west of the Chisos Mountains, and Terlingua to the Big Hill on River Road. Fortunately there is a ton a beautiful country to be seen in the Big Bend regardless of whether or not flowers are blooming.
Earth had its 7th-warmest January on record. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved February 21, 2023, from https://www.noaa.gov/news/eart...'s%20global%20climate%20record.
Merlo, J. (2020, January 11). Contributing factors for a bluebonnet bloom (Part I). Retrieved from https://www.jasonmerlo.com/gallery/contributing-factors-bluebonnet-bloom-texas/
Merlo, J. (2020, January 12). Contributing factors for a bluebonnet bloom (Part II): The Big Bend of Texas. Retrieved from https://www.jasonmerlo.com/gallery/contributing-factors-bluebonnet-bloom-big-bend-texas/
Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, August 3). Vernalization. Wikipedia. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...