En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
153 ratings

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


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!


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

More Wildflowers Questions

East Texas Natives and Botanical History
May 05, 2011 - I am looking for flowers &/or flowering shrubs that are native to east Texas, especially that would have been in this area over 100 or more years ago.
view the full question and answer

Is Fern-like Plant with White Flower Poison Hemlock?
May 06, 2014 - I have a fern-like plant which produces white flowers that uncurl from the stem as the plant starts to grow. Is this poison hemlock?
view the full question and answer

More on bluebonnets
September 13, 2006 - I have a small field (about 1/2 acre) where I would like to grow bluebonnets and perhaps some other wildflowers for added color. Do bluebonnets need to be fertilized? Should I water them? How can I...
view the full question and answer

When to reseed wildflowers in a drought year?
October 18, 2011 - My acreage with extensive wildflowers was mowed in 2010 before annuals had seeded. Only a few returned this year. Considering the predicted lonterm drought should I postpone reseeding this fall?
view the full question and answer

Overseeding native wildflower seeds as opposed to herbicides
August 10, 2006 - Greetings from Alabama, We would like to "roundup" approx 2 A and plant some wildflower (s) that would TAKE OVER. We have 20 A and over half is in mixed woods. Pine, oak, sweetgum, and ???. Do y...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center