Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
47 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

Early spring wildflowers of Pennsylvania
September 30, 2011 - What native wildflower is the first to bloom in Weedville, Pa? (Jay township, Elk county) I am working on a research paper for my Environmental Problems class, and this would be very helpful. Thank y...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping for a wedding in Memphis MO
October 13, 2009 - I am pretty new at this landscaping flower thing, but I love it. We just moved out to the country in NE Missouri from Colorado (Huge difference, but love it). We have decided to have our wedding at o...
view the full question and answer

Wildflowers for flood plain in Minnesota
December 05, 2008 - Hi- Our home sits on 2 acres with about 1 of the acres in a flood plain area. That 1 acre has water running through it when the snow melts off and it generally dries up in 2 days. It is currently plan...
view the full question and answer

Plants for the Shade of a Pine Tree in Pittsburg
June 03, 2013 - I live in Pittsburgh, PA. My neighbor has a huge pine tree. Last year everything I planted on that side near the tree died. That part of the yard only gets morning sun, as the tree overshadows it. Wha...
view the full question and answer

Native flowering plants for Frisco, Texas
August 12, 2015 - Hi There, I recently moved from Ohio, Cleveland to TX, Frisco. Could you please suggest me native flowering plants in my back yard and front yard. I like different flowers.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.