En Español

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

Critter-Proof Native Plants for Virginia Lawn
April 02, 2015 - We live in a gated community that was part of the Wilderness Battlefield during the Civil War. Our home is on a narrow lot, fully treed except for a postage stamp-sized lawn at lake side. We have de...
view the full question and answer

Native Annual Plant Substitute for Impatiens
May 11, 2013 - What can be used as an annual flowering plant to substitute for the diseased impatiens? Is Vinca one you would suggest?
view the full question and answer

Native plants growing between Eagle Pass and Del Rio, TX
October 25, 2005 - I have just bought an acre near Quemado, Texas. That's about halfway between Eagle Pass and Del Rio. I'd like to know what the native plants for this area are, especially colorful flowers for the ...
view the full question and answer

Viability of Lupinus havardii seeds from Elmendorf TX
April 25, 2014 - I have been able to grow several Lupinus havardii (Big Bend Bluebonnet) and they are now making seed. Is there anyway to determine if a seed is good or bad for this plant?
view the full question and answer

Summer-blooming Wildflowers for Wichita Falls, TX
June 08, 2013 - Can you give me a list of some summer-blooming (June, July, August, maybe September) wildflowers that I can plant in my flower beds in Wichita Falls, TX and tell me when the best time is to sow the se...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center