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Hill Country Wildflower Identification Guide

Spring wildflowers in the Texas Hill Country are in full bloom. Staff photos by JoAnna Kopp

Bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, buttercups, and several other wildflowers spread across the Texas Hill Country each spring, splashing the fields with eye-catching colors.

Thanks to Lady Bird Johnson’s Highway Beautification Act of 1965, wildflower seeds were planted along roadways across the United States and especially throughout her home in the Hill Country.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope,” said Lady Bird, a nature lover at heart.

According to the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, as the bill waded through the U.S. Congress for passing, President Johnson said of his first lady: “Now, she wants that bill. And if she wants it, I want it, and by God, we're going to pass it.”

Take a peek into the lives of President Johnson and his wife at the LBJ state and national parks in the Highland Lakes. Read more here.

This spring, sort out the world of wildflowers using our handy identification guide below!

BLUEBONNET

Lupinus texensis

Everyone knows this one! Bluebonnets are easy to identify because, well, they’re blue. They’re also the dominant wildflower that you’ll see in the spring. The city of Burnet has an entire festival dedicated to bluebonnets each April!

Fun fact: The Bluebonnet was named the state flower of Texas in 1901, and contrary to popular belief, it is not illegal to pick them.

INDIAN PAINTBRUSH

Castilleja indivisa

Indian paintbrushes are a bright red-orange and stand tall among the rest of area’s wildflowers. They also come in cream, yellow, and purple, but you’ll mostly see the red-orange variety in the Hill Country.

Fun fact: According to Native American legend, a young boy was painting the sunset but lacked red paint. He asked the Great Spirit for help, and the next day, he was granted red paintbrushes. After the boy finished his painting, he scattered the red paintbrushes across the land, and from then on, Indian paintbrush flowers began to bloom. The illustrated children’s book “The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush” by Tomie dePaola tells the tale.

INDIAN BLANKET

Gaillardia pulchella

Very different from the Indian paintbrush, the Indian blanket has long, thin, red petals with tips a halo of yellow. When they cover an entire field, it looks like a brightly woven blanket has been laid over the grass — hence, the name.

Fun fact: Indian blankets are also called firewheels. They are the state flower of Oklahoma.

PURPLE CONEFLOWER

Echinacea purpurea

The purple coneflower has hot pink petals that droop downwards with a bright orange-brown center.

Fun fact: Echinacea, the family to which the purple coneflower belongs, is used in holistic medicine for treating the common cold. Cough drops containing echinacea can work wonders for a sore throat.

GIANT SPIDERWORT

Tradescantia gigantea

These proliferous purple wildflowers are all over the Hill Country. The giant spiderwort grows in bunches, each flower boasting three deep purple petals.

Fun fact: While quite uncommon, the giant spiderwort also blooms with white petals — a rare find if you do come across one!

GOLDENEYE PHLOX

Phlox roemeriana

The goldeneye phlox has five petals bright pink in color. It is a common wildflower with a long blooming period. The wildflowers grow upright with an explosive bunch of petals and also come in shades of red, blue, and purple.

Fun fact: The goldeneye phlox is not named after the James Bond movie but the conspicuous ring of bright yellow at the center of the flower.

LARGE BUTTERCUP

Ranunculus macranthus

These cute, yellow flowers, which grow low to the ground, are quite fragrant and pleasant.

Fun fact: If you hold a buttercup to your chin and the bud reflects a yellow hue onto it, it is proof you have a soft spot for butter. At least, that’s how it goes in the schoolyard buttercup game.

PRAIRIE VERBENA

Glandularia bipinnatifida

These gentle clusters of pleasant, purple flowers are widespread across the state of Texas. The Spanish name — Moradilla — translates to “little purple one” in homage to the tiny, purple petals.

Fun fact: There are more than 3,000 species of verbena plants. Verbena leaves are commonly used in herbal teas for extra flavor.

FOUR-NERVE DAISY

Hymenoxys scaposa

Also know as the Perky Sue, these pretty, yellow flowers are loosely related to sunflowers. You can spot these small and sweet wildflowers from spring to fall.

Fun fact: The four-nerve daisy is a sight for sore eyes, literally: Native American tribes used these flowers to cure aching eyes.


ANTELOPE HORNS

Asclepias asperula

These white and green wildflowers are a species of milkweed, which is a necessary food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Fun fact: While this milkweed tastes delicious to monarchs, there are toxic chemicals in the flowers that make monarchs poisonous to predators.

WINECUP

Callirhoe involucrata

The name for this flower is perfectly fitting, as the long stem and its petals’ shape and color resemble a glass of red wine.

Fun fact: If you dig up the roots of the winecup, you can actually cook the tubers, which reportedly taste like sweet potatoes.

PINK EVENING PRIMROSE

Oenothera speciosa

Also known as pink ladies, these wildflowers are common in the Hill Country. They are headstrong and drought-resistant, so the pink evening primrose will outlast many of the other spring wildflowers.

Fun fact: These flowers open their petals in the evening and close them in the morning to hold onto moisture.

STANDING CYPRESS

Ipomopsis rubra

Butterflies and hummingbirds love these tube-shaped flowers, which are filled to the brim with nectar.

Fun fact: In perfect conditions, these deep red wildflowers can grow up to 6 feet tall.

TEXAS LANTANA

Lantana urticoides

This beautiful shrub is an explosion of red, yellow, and orange. Texas lantana thrives in the blistering summer heat and requires very little water.

Fun fact: Lantana plants attract butterflies and bees and are commonly used as honey plants.

TEXAS YELLOWSTAR

Lindheimera texana

Each flower has three to six petals spread out like rays of sunshine. The Texas yellowstar was discovered and named in New Braunfels and grows extremely well in limestone soil — so it’s very common across the Hill Country.

Fun fact: This bright yellow flower belongs to the sunflower family.

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