SAN ANTONIO - The bluebonnet blooming season started early this year. Experts at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center say some unseasonably warm weather brought the bluebonnets out about a month early.
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"So we think because of the weather this year that the wildflowers are starting early and are probably going to stretch across a longer period of time than usual this year," said Lee Clippard with the Wildflower Center.
“When a cold snap happens, bluebonnets are rarely damaged,” said Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of horticulture at the Wildflower Center. “But when we have warm spells as we have, and plants such as mountain laurels bloom, they are vulnerable to damage during a late hard freeze. We’ve had freezes in late March and early April, and if things are blooming by then, we can lose a lot of flowers for the season.”
Contrary to common belief, it is not illegal to pick bluebonnets in Texas.
“Actually, it is a myth that it is illegal to pick bluebonnets — that it not true,” said Mark Cross, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Transportation.
There is no Texas law that specifically prohibits the picking of bluebonnets, but there are ways you can get in trouble.
“It’s not illegal to pick them here and there, but it is illegal to destroy a field or a cluster of them with a vehicle or heavy foot traffic on a state highway right of-way,” said Cross.
It is illegal to block traffic while parking on the side of a road to pick bluebonnets, illegal to walk along freeways or the shoulder of freeways — where the state seeds wildflowers — and illegal to damage property, including state property, in the quest to pick a bluebonnet.
“For the most part, it is a myth,” said Cross. “It probably began because of the law that says that you cannot destroy them and people are like — ‘Well, what do you mean?’ — but it is not illegal to pick a bluebonnet.”
Although the bluebonnet can be picked, the state does caution about how to go about doing so.
“Motorists need to use extreme caution if they want to pull over along state roadways to look at wildflowers and find safe areas to do so,” said Cross. “That’s one thing we try to stress to people.”