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Mr. Smarty Plants - Obtaining seeds for mutant white bluebonnet

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Wednesday - April 18, 2007

From: Plano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation
Title: Obtaining seeds for mutant white bluebonnet
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have seen a white bluebonnet in Brenham on Easter and wondered how rare the white ones are and how you get seeds for those. Are there any special directions on collecting seeds for planting next fall? Scarify, keep dry/cool, etc. What is your opinion of the weather affecting this years bluebonnets?

ANSWER:

The white bluebonnet you saw is the result of a mutation in one of the genes responsible for producing the blue pigment of the flower. There are color variations other than white that show up occasionally (e.g., pink) but neither the white flower nor any of the other variants are true breeding. In other words, if they are sitting in a field with mostly normal bluebonnets, the pollen that the white ones receive will most likely be from the normal bluebonnets. This pollen will mask the mutation in the next generation so that they will have blue flowers instead of white. Some white ones will still surface every so often since blue flowers can carry (but masks) the mutant gene that causes white flowers. To produce white flowers, an egg with the white mutant gene must be fertilized by pollen which also has the mutant gene. If you want a population of all white bluebonnets, the white parent flowers have to be fertilized only by pollen that carries the mutation.

Dr. Jerry Parsons of Texas A&M, by carefully selecting and breeding color variants, produced a red bluebonnet and a Texas Aggie maroon bluebonnet. You can read about how he accomplished this in The Color-ization of the State Flower.

Wildseed Farms in Fredricksburg has the maroon, Alamo Fire, but Mr. Smarty Plants hasn't found a source for the white bluebonnet.

You can find "How to Grow Bluebonnets" in our how to articles with information about collecting, treating and planting bluebonnet seeds.

The rains have been beneficial for a good crop of bluebonnet seeds and the below freezing temperatures were short-lived, or non-existent, in most of the bluebonnets' range so shouldn't affect their seed production for next year's crop.


Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

 

 

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