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?

Share

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
16 ratings

Friday - October 03, 2008

From: Odessa, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Information about the bluebonnet
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What other plants live near a bluebonnet? What problems does the plant face, such as people, weather, and insects?

ANSWER:

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnets) grows in sunny areas across Texas (as well as Louisiana, Oklahoma and Florida) in pastures, clearings in woods, and highway rights-of-way.  They grow together with many other wildflowers [e.g., Castilleja indivisa (entireleaf Indian paintbrush)Oenothera speciosa (pinkladies),and Gaillardia pulchella (firewheel)] and with a variety of grasses such as Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) and Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama).

The bluebonnet faces some challenges. They are eaten by a few animals, but not really by large herbivores.  Lupinus spp. seeds do contain alkaloids that are poisonous if eaten in large quantities.  Cattle and horses avoid eating bluebonnets almost completely.  Deer will eat them in times of environmental stress when they are one of the few options left to eat.  Sheep and goats, however, find them quite tasty and will clear a pasture of them.  A few insects also eat the plant. For instance, the bluebonnet is larval food host for Northern Cloudywing, Gray Hairstreak, Henry's Elfin, Painted and American Lady, and Orange Sulphur butterflies. (Caterpillar Food Plants for Central Texas by Mike Quinn, Texas Parks and Wildlife).

Bluebonnets don't mind the cold.  They typically emerge in late October and form a small rosette of leaves that persists through the winter—freezing weather and all.  In late winter and early spring after the warm rains begin to fall, the rosettes grow into a larger plant and begin to blossom early to mid-March and reach their peak usually at the end of March and early April.  The amount and timing of the winter rains determines the success of the blooming season.

The biggest hazard from humans comes when they trample through the bluebonnets while taking photos of their friends and family sitting among the blossoms.  People are enamored with the bluebonnets.  They drive many miles just to see them and photograph them.  Along with other wildflowers, the Texas Department of Transportation plants bluebonnets, and then monitors their progress and schedules roadside mowings that will allow the plants to set and disperse their seeds.  Bluebonnets give back more than their beauty—the plants fix nitrogen which enriches the soil for other plants.  Bluebonnets inspire art—Robert J. Onderdonk and Porfirio Salinas were two great bluebonnet artists and many professional and amateur artists still capture the beauty of the Texas bluebonnet today.


Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

 


Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

 

 

 


Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

 

 

More Wildflowers Questions

Mosquito-deterring plants for shady hillside
July 05, 2011 - We have a part to full shaded hill side/ native woodland area that was once covered with english ivy..we managed to get rid of all the ivy but now we are overtaken with violets..maybe they are even na...
view the full question and answer

Annual flowers for fall planting in San Antonio
June 22, 2010 - What are some recommended annual flowers for fall planting in a small garden in San Antonio? Also any help on planting and cultivating would be appreciated.
view the full question and answer

Caterpillars on young bluebonnet plants in Comal Co., TX
December 29, 2009 - Due to much needed recent rains our bluebonnets are coming on beautifully. Today however when looking at what I thought was frost damage noticed caterpillars that start eating from the center and work...
view the full question and answer

Visiting Texas for bluebonnets
December 29, 2004 - I know rainfall amounts in the winter affect the blooming of bluebonnets in the spring. I am thinking about visiting Texas this spring. What should I be looking for in rainfall amounts? I will watch...
view the full question and answer

Flower sucession for Washington DC
June 18, 2012 - Interplanting to cover up spring ephemerals. When bulbs/spring ephemerals (camassia, bluebells, etc.) are dying back, their wilting leaves don't look so great. What can I plant to minimize the me...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center