Texas State Flower - Bluebonnet

Bluebonnets can turn a meadow into a sea of blue.

Bluebonnets can turn a meadow into a sea of blue.

One would be hard-pressed to find another state whose residents are as enthusiastic about their state flower as Texans are about the bluebonnet (Lupine texensis). Also known as buffalo clover, it turns Texas roadsides and meadows blue with it's blooms from mid-March to mid-April. Despite rumors to the contrary, it is not illegal to pick bluebonnets on public property in Texas. If you do pick the flowers, ensure that you aren’t on private property and that you take only a few flowers.


The bluebonnet is a type of lupine and bears blue flowers on its stalk. The plant grows from 12 to 24 inches in height and, aside from blue, its cultivars bloom in pink and lavender. Bluebonnets are members of the Fabaceae, or legume family, related to beans and peas. They thrive in sunny spots and, when cultivated, are easy to care for.


The bluebonnet had stiff competition to become Texas’ state flower. Since cotton was king in early 1900s Texas, the cotton boll was the choice of one Texas legislator. The prickly pear cactus was another plant under consideration for state flower honors. It was the bluebonnet though, promoted by the Colonial Dames of America, which won the hearts of the Texas legislature. The bluebonnet became the official floral emblem of the state of Texas in 1901. In 1971, the legislature added this amendment to the statute: ". . .and any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded."


Bluebonnet seeds require scarification to allow moisture to get to the embryo. A common scarification technique calls for the use of a scalpel or baby nail clippers to slightly nick the outside of the seed coat. One of the challenges gardeners with heavy soil face when germinating bluebonnet seeds is that, while the seeds germinate, the plants don’t develop. Amend clay soil with coarse sand and lots of organic matter. In well-drained soil that is between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, bluebonnet seeds germinate from within 15 to 75 days.


The Texas state flower was the stuff of Comanche legends in the days before it was dubbed "bluebonnet." The story of the huge sacrifice of a young Comanche girl that caused the birth of the bluebonnet was handed down from generation to generation. Today, the Texas Department of Transportation seeds the 79,000 miles of Texas roadsides with the blue flowers every year. In gardens, the bluebonnet is used as an ornamental.

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