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Bluebonnet

Bluebonnet - Lupinus texensis
Location: Hubert M. Dawson Library and along Highway Loop 363. (Map)

In her wonderful little book, The Texas Bluebonnet, author Jean Andrews tells how the 1901 Texas Legislature finally selected the bluebonnet suggested by John M. Green of Cuero as the State Flower of Texas. It won out over the yellow prickley-pear cactus blossom eloquently proposed by John Nance Garner. He was known as “Cactus Jack” even after he later went to Washington D.C. to become Vice-President of the United States. Another proposal was the open cotton boll that was called the “the white rose of commerce” by its presenter, Phil Clement. The designated species was Lupinus subcarnosus, but later the other five native species were included. Wolf flower, buffalo clover, “el conejo” and bluebonnet are the common names that appear in the literature along with interesting stories about why they are so named.

The Family Fabaceae (Leguminosae) in which the bluebonnet is found is a very large one with over 10,000 species in 500 genera. Trees, vines, perennials and herbs are all represented in this family. The main characteristic that unites the members of this family is the fruit called a legume. The legume is a one-chambered fruit like a bean or pea pod. At maturity the fruit may split along one or both sides to reveal the seeds inside. All legumes have a hard protective seed coat. The blooming period for the bluebonnet is from late February to May. They are winter annuals that form rosettes of palmately-compound leaves. The leaves and stems are covered with tiny silver hairs. They may be upright or sprawling and grow from 6 to 12 inches when they bloom.

Bluebonnets should be planted in the fall. Scarified seeds may be purchased or if seeds are collected, they can be shaken in a paper sack with sand to aid germination. To ensure seeds for next year’s crop, bluebonnets should not be mowed until at least half of the seed pods have ripened and opened.


References:
The Texas Bluebonnet, Jean Andrews
Wildflowers of the Western Plains, Zoe Merriman Kirpatrick
Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest, George O. Miller
Shinners & Mahler’s Flora of North Central Texas, Diggs, Lipscomb & O’Kennon