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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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