My Favorite Wildflower Images of Spring 2024

May 20, 2024

We’ve waited for a good wildflower season for several years. Finally, El Nino spent a Winter and Spring hanging out with us for the last six months. With the on-and-off rain this weather pattern has provided, this wildflower season turned out to be a slightly above average. Of course, my photography buddies with whom I hunt wildflowers realize we’re probably snobs when it comes to expectations. We’ve seen the 2010 and 2012 seasons, as well as a few several years before, that provided miles of solid bluebonnets, and a month later, seas of red firewheels that seemed to never end. That said, this Spring provided some colorful and breathtaking sights – both along the hill country roads and into distant rolling hills.

Now, wildflowers are fading, and temperatures are reaching into the upper 90s as June fast approaches. While the colors and scents of the blooms are still lingering in my mind, I’d like to share my favorite images from this season.

I do not usually think of Big Bend National Park when I reflect on wildflowers, but one May evening high up on the Lost Mine Trail, I spent some time searching for prickly pear blooms just off the trail. Instead, I found the claret cup cactus (also known as the hedgehog cactus, and a latin name of Echinocereus triglochidiatus) full of its beautiful red blooms. With the sun setting slightly to the north of Casa Grande, this scene is one of my most memorable in a long time.

Hedgehog Cacti (Claret Cups) bloom in Big Bend National Park.

The red blooms of a Claret Cup Cactus (also known as Hedgehog Cacti) seemed to glow in the last light of a Big Bend evening. This scene came from high up on the Lost Mine Trail (just off the path). I'd gone up searching for prickly pear blooms, but this amazing show of desert beauty captured my attention instead.

The hike back down in the dark did not seem to take long (2.5 miles one way) after finding this one special scene. Incidentally, there were no prickly pear cacti blooming atop Lost Mine.

Well before sunrise, I arrived at Muleshoe Bend. I like shooting here because it is only 40 minutes from my house – a short distance compared to many of the places I visit. The winds were absolutely calm, the quarter-moon was rising in the east, and the bluebonnets were motionless, draped in shades of sleepy blue. This image was made from 11 individual photographs, stacked and blended to ensure sharpness from front to back. I loved the golden wildflowers that added a splash of color as pre-dawn clouds drifted by.

Blue Hour at Muleshoe Bend 402-1

Well before sunrise, this blue hour image was a long exposure. Fortunately, the winds were calm and the bluebonnets still. Muleshoe Bend is one of the better places to shoot at this hour, mainly because it can get crowded during the day. But this morning was just about perfect.

I like this image from Turkey Bend, Muleshoe’s cousin that sits just across the Colorado River. It came from my first trip of the season in March. Storm clouds lingered to the southwest of this area of bluebonnets, and just when I thought the light was fading, the last of the sunlight illuminated the large cloud high up in the darkening sky. From my view, it looked like it was boiling in bright light. The colors didn’t last long, but was quite a sight to see.

Bluebonnets rest beneath an evening storm.

A field of bluebonnets rest beneath a brewing storm near the slow moving waters of the Colorado River just south of Marble Falls. The sun has set and I was ready to pack up when the clouds in the distance began to glow in the fading evening light.

I’ve read prickly pear cactus blooms are technically not considered wildflowers, but they are flowers nonetheless. Every year I trek out to Enchanted Rock, spending most of my time exploring the trails around Enchanted Rock and on the smaller uplift just to the southeast of Enchanted Rock. This year, I spent a few hours exploring more of Little Rock and found this nice view of Enchanted Rock with the peach-colored blooms of prickly pear in the foreground. I didn’t have high hopes for colorful skies, so these low-hanging, quickly-moving clouds were a nice surprise as the low sunlight brought out their shades of orange and pink.

Prickly Pear Spring at Enchanted Rock 2

Prickly pear cacti showed their spring colors with these peach-colored blooms. In the distance, Enchanted Rock stood tall beneath quickly moving evening clouds as the sun fell in the western horizon. In April and May, the cactus blooms in the Hill Country can be plentiful and colorful, and this is one of my favorite places to visit each year.

Near Mason, Texas, along a dirt road, a friend and I came across this old oak tree. The sun was low in the west, and the slanting light gave a soft glow to the bluebonnets and golden grounsel that surrounded the large oak tree. This image was taken with a medium format camera, and when I was processing this image, I finally noticed the small songbird watching me from the uppermost branch of the tree!

The Old Oak in Spring 1

This old oak tree was a beauty in the evening light. Taken along a dirt road near Mason the image shows bluebonnets and groundsel covering the area in vibrant, warm colors. At the top of the tree, there is a bird watching from his lofty vantage point.

For the last image, I’d like to share a place I have not shot before this season. Taken between Llano and Burnett, the Lake Buchanan Lighthouse in most seasons is surrounded by water. However, with the lingering drought in the highland lakes, bluebonnets have made the most of the opportunity to sprout and bloom. This season, bluebonnets were everywhere. I had to make this hour drive in the dark before sunrise a few times to find this nice sunrise, and it paid off with several different views – horizontal, vertical and a large panorama.

Lake Buchanan Lighthouse 3

This panorama of bluebonnets surrounding the Lighthouse on Lake Buchanan is made of 42 individual images - stacked and blended - to maximize depth of field and ensure clarity through the image. The morning was gorgeous and calm. I made the drive to this area three separate mornings for sunrise, and this was the only morning to have some extra color in the sky. Images like this make the driving worth it for me.

This image is available in large size. Please contact me for more information.

Even on this late day in May, I’ve heard reports from a friend that firewheels and unnamed golden flowers are still blooming in parts north of Fredericksburg. Maybe my season isn’t over yet!

In the meantime, I wish everyone happy travels. I hope everyone survives the incoming hot summer. As for me, I’ll be getting out of the state to places cooler for a few months.

Happy Travels, Everyone,

~ Rob
Images from Texas