Facts on the Texas Bluebonnet

Overview

Forget the Yellow Rose of Texas; the bluebonnet is the royalty of wildflowers in the Lone Star State. Several species of the wildflower bluebonnet are native to Texas, but historically and traditionally, the true Texas bluebonnet is the one referred to as Lupinus texensis. Its many, fragrant white and deep blue-violet flower spikes grace the prairies in a wide expanse of central Texas each summer.

Origins

The Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis) is an annual species of lupine found only naturally in Texas. Its orginal range extends from south-central to north-central Texas in the Blackland Prairie and Edwards Plateau.

Nomenclature

A member of the pea family, Fabaceae, the Texas bluebonnet is a species of lupine (Lupinis texensis). Other common names include bluebonnet, wolf-flower, Texas lupine and buffalo clover. Confusion may arise in the American South, as many blue-flowering lupines may be called a Texas bluebonnet in the vernacular.

Description

Growing 10 to 16 inches in height, the Texas bluebonnet is an annual wildflower with a bushy habit. The fuzzy stems are upright and hold velvety green leaves that look like hands with five-pointed, lance-like leaflets. In summer, pea-shaped or sun bonnet-like flowers of white and dark violet-blue line a flower spike, numbering as many as 50 spikes on one individual plant. The tip of the flower spike has younger flowers that are conspicuously white, easier for bees to see. The fragrant blossoms later become small brown seed pods filled with seeds that are shed to the soil below, germinating to form attractive rosettes of leaves by winter's onset and then grow explosively in spring.

Growing Requirements

Grow this wildflower in a full sun exposure in a dry, well-draining soil that is either sand, loam or clay. It is drought tolerant and capable of growing in highly alkaline or calcareous soils. Sow the seeds in late summer and allow the young plant to slowly grow over the mild winter and then sprout stems and flowers the following growing season. In very cold winter regions, start seeds indoors and transplant outside in mid-spring.

State Flower Status

In 1901 the Texas legislature designated the state flower as the bluebonnet, and specified Lupinus subcarnosus, commonly called the sandy land bluebonnet. Although native to Texas, this species was thought by many as less beautiful than the Texas bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis. In 1971, the definition of the Texas state flower was broadened to include Lupinus texensis, the true Texas bluebonnet, but also to include any other native bluebonnet. Currently, five or six species of native Texan lupines hold the title of state flower.

Keywords: Lupinus, buffalo clover, state flowers

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for The Public Garden, Docent Educator, numerous non-profit newsletters and for Learn2Grow.com's comprehensive plant database. He holds a Master's degree in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne's Burnley College.