The bluebonnet (Lupinus) is the state flower of Texas. The small plants are winter annuals and are native to the state. They grow widely along roadsides, in fields, pastureland and woodlands. Texas has six state flowers and all are varieties of bluebonnets. The Lupinus subcarnosus, also called the sandyland or Texas bluebonnet, was the first recognized Texas state flower in 1901.
Choosing a Species
In 1901 the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Texas pushed for the election of the bluebonnet as the state flower. The cotton boll and the cactus also were under consideration. On March 7, 1901, governor Joseph D. Sayers signed the bill to give the bluebonnet state recognition. The species Lupinus subcarnosus was the first variety recognized.
The Deciding Factor
The deciding factor in the election of the bluebonnet as the state flower over all other contenders in 1901 was a painting by Mode H. Walker. Her oil painting depicted a pitcher filled with bluebonnets. Members of Colonial Dames rode in buggies to the state capital where they met with the state legislature to display the painting and plead their case for the bluebonnet to gain state flower recognition.
The 70 Year Battle
Different flower supporters continued to push the legislation for 70 years to recognize all bluebonnet varieites as state flowers in Texas. Each flower species had its supporters. On March 8, 1971, the Big Bend bluebonnet (Lupinus havardii) , sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis), Nebraska lupine (Lupinus plattensis), Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus), another variety commonly called the Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) and bajada lupine (Lupinus concinnus) would all be recognized as state Texas flowers.
In 1985, Mr. and Mrs. Pierre Bremond donated the famous oil painting by Mode H. Walker of the bluebonnets in the vase to the Neill-Cochran House Museum in Austin, where it sits on display as a testament to the bluebonnet gaining state flower recognition.
Early Spanish Priests
It was often mistakenly believed that Spanish priests brought bluebonnet seeds with them from Spain when they built missions throughout Texas because the priests would plant fields of bluebonnets wherever they went. In reality, the priests found the bluebonnets so visually appealing that they regularly gathered seeds to plant around the walls of their missions.