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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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