Spring, as it turns out, was not canceled. While we've been locked up indoors, bluebonnets and other wildflowers have been popping up all around Dallas-Fort Worth.
"We didn’t have as wet of a fall as we did in 2018, but we are still seeing quite a bit of blooming," says Megan Proska, senior horticulture manager at the Dallas Arboretum's Rory Meyers Children's Adventure Garden & Trials Gardens.
The bloom season should last until mid-April or so, Proska says, depending on the weather.
Thank goodness, then, that Tarrant, Dallas, and surrounding counties make exceptions to their stay-at-home orders for engaging in outdoor activity — as long as groups don't gather and social distance is maintained. In fact, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price — an avid cyclist — has been touting the physical and mental benefits that time spent in the fresh air can bring.
Trips to the Texas Hill Country are more than "engaging in outdoor activity," sadly. And many of spring's hottest spots for wildflower-peeping in North Texas are not available this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Ennis Bluebonnet Trails are closed, and their beloved annual bluebonnet festival is called off. (Save the date for April 16-18, 2021, they say.)
Cedar Hill State Park, normally bursting with color this time of year, is closed, too. And closer to home, Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge, Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT), and Fort Worth Botanic Garden are not options.
Some DFW parks and natural areas that remain open — like Tandy Hills Hills Natural Area in Fort Worth, Clark Gardens Botanical Park in Weatherford, and Cottonwood Park in Irving — are pretty spots for walks among flowers. But parks attract visitors, and visitors attract groups, and groups are a bad thing.
What's blooming where
A family drive out to a field or a bike ride down a country road might just be the only real way to view bluebonnets in the age of social distancing.
Proska says besides bluebonnets, we'll see Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, Evening primrose, Mexican Hat, and Coreopsis blooming now. Photo-worthy patches have sprung up along roads in Mansfield, Azle, and areas around Ennis — even if the official trails are closed.
According to posts in the Facebook group Texas Bluebonnets and Wildflowers, Indian Paintbrush (which can be various shades of red, white, orange, yellow, and purple) are abundant in far west Fort Worth, off Interstates 30 and 20, toward Weatherford.
Each year, bluebonnets paint the landscape along highways 183, 121, and 114 near DFW Airport. And they dot stretches of I-30 within the Fort Worth and Arlington city limits, too.
For those willing to drive a bit out of town, pretty patches and gorgeous fields have been spotted in Plano. One is near the J.C. Penney headquarters on Legacy Drive. Another is along the Bluebonnet Trail Greenbelt, just east of where the trail crosses Custer Road. Frisco's got some pretty ones just outside Zion Cemetery.
For those making it a day-long adventure, farther out of the Metroplex, there are patches at the entrance to Mallard Park in Lavon (about 30 miles north of McKinney) and fields of wildflowers off Highway 75 in Denison and Sherman, spotters say.
Before you head out on a country drive, remember we are living in a world without pit stops at roadside Whataburgers. Plan snacks, drinks, and potential restroom situations accordingly.
Also, remember the "groups" rule. If you approach a pretty patch and another family is taking photos, ride on by.
Some regular guidelines to keep in mind, too: Don't trespass on private property. Don't pick the flowers. Step gently so you don't squish them, and don't leave anything behind. Also, beware of snakes, fire ants, and other critters that might be hiding among the flowers.
Wildflowers from the comfort of your couch
Can’t get outside? Enjoy a virtual tour of what’s blooming around the state on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Flickr page, populated with wildflower sightings from state parks and wildlife management areas, or its Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, where anyone can share photos of the great outdoors.
Proska says the INaturalist app will allow you to see what’s in bloom in different regions around the Metroplex.
Melissa Gaskill contributed to this report.