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Mr. Smarty Plants - Franciscans and bluebonnets

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Friday - October 05, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Franciscans and bluebonnets
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I always thought the bluebonnets were native to Texas. However, I'm reading a book on the Missions of Old Texas and the author states the Franciscan brought into Texas the horse, cow, honey bees and even the bluebonnet which they culled from the hillsides of Jerusalem and planted them on Texas soil. Is that true?

ANSWER:

There are more than 200 species of lupines (spelled lupin, in Great Britain) worldwide.  Most are native to the Americas, but a few species hail from Europe and North Africa.  While some species of lupine now grow in Israel, none are known to be native there.  The story, like many stories about the origins of things, is fanciful.  Several of the European species of lupine are edible and are important food crops.  If the Franciscans were going to bring a species of lupine to the New World, it likely would not have been one that is palatable to neither man nor beast, as is the Texas bluebonnet. 

it is true, though,†that horses, cows and domestic honeybees are all introduced species from the Old World.  It is worth noting that horses were once native to North America, but they became extinct here about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago – roughly coinciding with the arrival of man –  and no horse hoofprints were again seen on North American soil until the arrival of the Spanish some 500 years ago.  While there are many, many species of native bees, honeybees†were introduced.

 

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), Lupinus subcarnosus (Texas bluebonnet), Lupinus plattensis (Nebraska lupine), Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine), Lupinus havardii (Big Bend bluebonnet) and Lupinus concinnus (bajada lupine) are all native to Texas and thus, are each the official state flower of Texas.  If the species Lupinus caudatus (tailcup lupine), which is occasionally found growing in Texas, is determined to be a native then it will be included among the “State Flower” members.
 

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