THE BLUEBONNET

Photo Credit - James Sough

Photo Credit – James South

This photo by James South shows the bluebonnet mixed with Indian paintbrush plants.

Our state motto is “Don’t Mess With Texas,” but it could also be “Don’t Mess With Texas Women.” In 1901, when the state legislature decided to select a state flower, most of them (probably all men back then) wanted either the cactus flower or the cotton boll (the cotton-filled seed vessel of the plant). The members of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, however, wanted the bluebonnet, also known as the buffalo flower, Lupinus, and they went to Texas to make their case. The women prevailed. Unfortunately, the legislators chose the Lupinus subcarnosus and ignored the Lupinus texensis, which is much bigger than the daintier subcarnosus. Not only that, but shouldn’t the texensis be the logical choice?

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Photo by James South

For the next 70 years, individuals met with lawmakers off and on to try to get the texensis named the state flower instead of the subcarnosus. In 1971 the legislators solved the problem by decreeing that both those flowers and any other Lupinus that grew then or that developed in the future would all be recognized as the state flower. The Texas Highway Department scatters the texensis along the highways and byways each year. The bluebonnet is a wonderful choice for the state flower since it needs little water and will often bloom during drought conditions.

Recently, the University of Texas at Austin found maroon-tinged bluebonnets growing in flowerbeds on their campus. Many suspected that Texas A&M University’s Aggies, traditionally rivals with UT-Austin, had something to do with the invasion of the flowers since A&M’s colors are maroon and white.

Many wondered how the maroon flower came to exist. Two horticulturists, Greg Grant and Dr. Jerry Parsons spent some time selecting seeds from red, white, and blue bluebonnets in hopes of creating the Texas flag using the three colors. They noticed some pink bluebonnets had a blue tinge. When they realized that the hue sometimes resembled maroon, Greg Grant, an Aggie through and through, decided to try to develop a strain with a maroon hue. Over time, Grant and Parsons succeeded.

When the maroon flowers were found on the UT campus, many suspected that they were the result of an Aggie prank. Others believed that the invasion was merely a result of the seeds being mixed up at the company that provided them. At first, officials at UT-Austin were willing to allow the maroon bluebonnets to coexist with the blue ones, but they decided on April 17, 2014, that the ones growing on their campus are intruders and will be removed.

Some think it is against the law to pick bluebonnets in Texas, but it is not so. The state just reminds people to watch out for fire ants and rattlers. That might be better than making a law against picking them.

The company that provides the seeds Lupinus texensis (Fabaceae) also known as Alamo Fire, recommends that any non-maroon flowers be removed to avoid cross-pollination.

The legend of the bluebonnet is a fascinating one. I would tell you the story here, but it is told so well on another site that I will give you a link to that version.

http://www.coedu.usf.edu/culture/Story/Story_Texas.htm

You can order the seeds here.

http://shop.wildseedfarms.com/Alamo-Fire_Maroon-Bluebonnet/productinfo/3229/

These are the articles I used as sources.

http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/trb01

http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/cemap/maroon/realmaroon.html

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Tex-Arcana-How-bluebonnets-became-state-flower-1792133.php

http://alcalde.texasexes.org/2014/04/they-live-the-saga-of-the-maroon-bluebonnet-continues/

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