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

Wildflower Garden for a June wedding in Pepper Pike OH
February 24, 2013 - Greetings, We have a grand idea to plant a wildflower garden for an outdoor wedding in June. Located in Pepper Pike, Ohio at the home of the groom. They have a large property and we wondered what woul...
view the full question and answer

Survival of bluebonnets in extreme heat from Tioga TX
September 03, 2011 - Is there anything I can do for my bluebonnet patch in this extreme drought for the rest of the summer and fall? Should I have watered this summer? I had a good show and think seeding was fairly normal...
view the full question and answer

Dandelions in bluebonnets in Bastrop TX
May 31, 2012 - I have a 20'x60' front yard area where I planted bluebonnets. It has become horrifically inundated with dandelions. How do I eradicate the dandelions while preserving the bluebonnets ? Thanks ...
view the full question and answer

Seeds for native Sandyland Bluebonnet
October 04, 2008 - I live in Bastrop County Texas and would like to plant our native Sandyland Bluebonnet, Lupinus subcarnosus. I have checked most of the native plant supply firms, but can't find this species (except...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting native bluebells in Texas
July 02, 2008 - Hello Smarty, Italy TX here again! Your advice on crape myrtles has inspired me to try harder, but now I have a question about a TRUE native wildflower,the Texas Bluebell, growing in my pasture. I ca...
view the full question and answer

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