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Heart of the Hill Country: the bluebonnet

The annual bloom is a tradition deep in the hearts of Texans

Some places are just different — there’s a brightness to them, an energy, and they have the power to bring together people of all ages and all walks of life. They’re the lifeblood of our region, and over the year, we’ll be highlighting some of these special places across our service area. We’re calling them Hearts of the Hill Country — because when we’re there, we’re community.

Some may say bluebonnets aren’t a place, but we Central Texans know better. Each year, spring begins with a blush of blue as our state flower starts to bloom in yards, pastures and along roadsides. Its short lifespan makes it extra special, which may be why we take part in a tradition that must seem strange to newcomers: We dress up, load the family into the car and make a destination of the flowers as we head out to find a good patch for family photos.

It’s a Texas tradition, Burnet local Glenda Baker said, recounting how her family would dress up in coordinating “Sunday best” outfits every spring for photos.

“When I was a little girl and we were driving down the road, and we would go, ‘Oh, look at that patch of bluebonnets,’ and then we would all immediately pull off the side of the road and have our picture made,” Baker said. “I think the attraction comes from the beauty and the smell — it’s just awesome.”

The bluebonnet became the Texas state flower on March 7, 1901, and its popularity grew after the state legislature adopted a song about it in the 1930s. The Highway Beautification Act of 1965, led by former First Lady and longtime Texan Lady Bird Johnson, extended the range of the bluebonnet and other wildflowers along most major highways throughout the country, creating the beautifully blooming roadsides we love today.

Nowadays, the bluebonnet’s popularity is widespread, captivating artists and photographers worldwide, bringing families together and inspiring celebrations of the beautiful blooms. Burnet, the self-proclaimed Bluebonnet Capital of Texas, hosts an annual Bluebonnet Festival, where artists and other vendors like Paul Cameron Smith sell their work to local bluebonnet enthusiasts.

“[The bluebonnet] is Texas pride,” Smith said. “Every bluebonnet oil painting that I produce sells really quick. It’s a subject matter that a big percentage of Texans choose to put in their homes, and they can enjoy it year-round.”

But nothing can beat the flower itself, and as its season fades this year, Central Texans’ bond with the flower remains.

“Everyone I know has always loved [the bluebonnet],” Burnet local Sharon Tippie said. “I think people are attracted to the flower because it’s special to Texas and it makes our Hill Country even more beautiful.”