Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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
2 ratings

Sunday - July 04, 2010

From: Lubbock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: How many leaflets does a Texas Bluebonnet have?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

How many leaves does a Texas Bluebonnet have? I have a co-worker who is making disparaging remarks about my bluebonnet plaque.

ANSWER:

How rude!   One of my fellow Green Gurus suggests hitting the cad with the plaque! 

First, I guess you need some ammunition to counter your fellow worker's disparaging words.  All species of Lupinus have palmate leaves, so I think you are really asking how many leaflets the leaves on your bluebonnet should have.  As it turns out, there are six bluebonnet species that are the State Flower(s) of Texas.  The original state flower was Lupinus subcarnosus (Texas bluebonnet), declared so by the Texas Legislature in 1901.  However, there were many people who thought that the Legislature had made a mistake and who wanted the larger, showier Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) to be the official State Flower.  For 70 years the controversy "raged" over which of the State's bluebonnet species should have that honor.  Finally, to settle the dispute, in 1971 the State Legislature decided to add Lupinus texensis and "any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded".  This means that all six species of bluebonnets (Lupinus spp.) that occur in Texas are the official State Flower(s) of Texas.  This included Lupinus texensis and Lupinus subcarnosus, as well as Lupinus concinnus (bajada lupine), Lupinus havardii (Big Bend bluebonnet), Lupinus plattensis (Nebraska lupine) and Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine).  Most likely, you have Lupinus texensis portrayed on your plaque, but maybe not.   At any rate, whichever you have portrayed on your plaque, here is the answer to how many leaflets each has:

According to the Correll and Johnston's Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas, pp. 802-803, for the Genus Lupinus listed in Texas they say:   "...leaves alternate, palmately compound with 3 to 10 leaflets.

Specifically for Lupinus texensis (the species most commonly seeded on roadsides by the Texas Department of Transportation) and Lupinus subcarnosus, Correll and Johnston say: "Leaves with predominately 5 or 6 (very rarely 7) leaflets;..."

Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas says that Lupinus texensis has 4 to 7 leaflets.

Here are the leaflet counts for the other species, according to Correll and Johnston:

Lupinus plattensis:  "Leaves with predominantly 7 to 10 (very rarely 6 or 5) leaflets;..."

Lupinus concinnus:  "...leaflets 5 to 8;..."

Lupinus havardii:  "...leaflets usually 7;..."

Correll and Johnston do not include Lupinus perennis in their descriptions, but Jean Andrews in The Texas Bluebonnet says that Lupinus plattensis and Lupinus perennis have 7 to 19 leaflets.

Even though there are usually 5 leaflets per leaf for Lupinus texensis (see the photos in our Image Gallery), the number of leaflets can be variable.  You don't say how many leaflets the bluebonnet on your plaque has, but if it's anywhere between 4 and 7, you can ask your co-worker for an apology. 

You might be able to see leaves with varying number of leaflets in this photo of Lupinus texensis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Wildflowers Questions

French Provincial Garden using Natives
January 31, 2011 - I am designing a French provincial garden near Waco Lake, I am looking for some native shrubs and ornamental grasses to augment the myriad of lavender, roses, and lilies in the proposed design.
view the full question and answer

Collecting native plants of Texas
March 06, 2009 - Where can I find native plants of Texas to collect? I am doing a project and I need native Texan flowers here in Austin or around here.
view the full question and answer

List of most popular wildflowers in Texas Hill Country from Austin
January 15, 2011 - Can you please tell me the top 10 wildflowers found in the Texas hill country..by numbers, not popularity?
view the full question and answer

Native wildflowers for Denver, Colorado area
March 17, 2007 - I live in the Denver, CO area and would like to plant more native wildflowers. Can you please tell me where I can find a list?
view the full question and answer

Desmanthus and Chamaecrista seeds
June 05, 2005 - Hello my wildflower specialist friend. I got 20 Desmanthus illinoensis and also Chamaecrista fasciculata seeds. Then I planted them in early March, when there was still frost, in clayish soil, not far...
view the full question and answer

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

Bibliography

Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1979) Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston

Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas (1999) Diggs, G. M.; B. L. Lipscomb; B. O'Kennon; W. F. Mahler; L. H. Shinners

The Texas Bluebonnet (1986) Andrews, J.

Search More Titles in Bibliography