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Mr. Smarty Plants - History of the Texas Bluebonnet

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Wednesday - March 12, 2008

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Best of Smarty, Wildflowers
Title: History of the Texas Bluebonnet
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, I'm working on an article for a newspaper and wondered if you could point me in the right direction to find out the history of the bluebonnet. When did it become the state flower? Is it really illegal to pick them? Were there other state flowers before the bluebonnet (like maybe a yellow rose)? Thanks for any help or guidance you can offer!

ANSWER:

The first thing you need to know is that there is not one state flower of Texas, there are six. They are all of the genus Lupinus and they are all called Bluebonnets, so that's a trick question for party conversation. The six are Lupinus havardii (Big Bend bluebonnet), Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine), Lupinus plattensis (Nebraska lupine), Lupinus subcarnosus (Texas bluebonnet), Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), and Lupinus concinnus (bajada lupine).

To get more concise dates, go to this website on Texas State Flower. When, in 1901, the Texas Legislature decided the state really needed to have a state flower, the cotton boll and the cactus were two that were hot contenders. The Chapter of the Colonial Dames in Texas suggested that the bluebonnet would be the most appropriate, and their opinion prevailed. The bill approving Lupinus subcarnosus (Texas bluebonnet) as the state flower was signed on March 7, 1901 by Gov. Joseph D. Sayers. The debate then went on for 70 years, as there were a number of other species of bluebonnet native to the State of Texas. On March 8, 1971, the Legislature amended the 1901 statue to include Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) "and any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded." Essentially, all bluebonnets found in Texas are now considered the official flower of the state; at this point in time, that consists of the 6 listed above.

As to the legality of picking bluebonnets, we went straight to the source, as it were, and found this website of the Texas Department of Public Safety from which we learned: There is no law prohibiting the picking of bluebonnets. There are laws of criminal trespass; so make sure you're not on private property. There also are laws against damaging or destroying rights-of-way, so pick a few flowers, but don't dig up clumps of them or drive your vehicle into the midst of them. And be aware of your own safety-don't walk out into the roadway to position your camera, pull your car off of the improved roadway, and don't walk across lanes of traffic to get to the flowers. Oh, and one other thing. Are you aware that snakes and fire ants love bluebonnets, too?

And, finally, the yellow rose. The yellow rose of Texas is a traditional folk song of the Southern United States. One author dates the song to 1927, considerably after the selection of the Texas state flower. Moreover, the native wild roses were all pink or white. In the 18th Century, wild yellow roses were discovered growing in the Middle East. The yellow roses of today are the product of extensive hybridizing and all come from non-native to North America origins.

 

From the Image Gallery


Big bend bluebonnet
Lupinus havardii

Sundial lupine
Lupinus perennis

Nebraska lupine
Lupinus plattensis

Sandyland bluebonnet
Lupinus subcarnosus

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Annual lupine
Lupinus concinnus

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