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Bluebonnets - The State Flower of Texas
The Official Flower of Texas
One of the best things that happens in the state of Texas is the annual blooming of the wildflowers. If you ask a Texan their favorite flower, they will undoubtedly tell you that the bluebonnet is the most beloved of all wildflowers. These beautiful spring flowers emerge in stunning fashion, casting a hue of purple along highways, road sides, fields, flower gardens, and just about anywhere a seed can be dropped and grow.
The bluebonnet got it's name from the similar shape of a girl's bonnet. When you see them along the highway, they look purple, not blue, but I think you'll agree that bluebonnet sounds better than purple bonnet!
The rising of the bluebonnets is a rite of spring that is anticipated by millions, viewed by hundreds of thousands, and enjoyed by the inhabitants of the state. Come along, I'll show you the life of a Texas bluebonnet.
The Bluebonnet Life Cycle
In 1901, the Texas Legislature voted the lupins texensis as the state flower of Texas. Since then, this beauty of nature has been putting on a show with the help of Mother Nature. Following the life cycle of most wildflowers, the bluebonnet goes through many changes throughout the entire year.
Let's start with the plants emerging out of the dead grass. This is a plant in my backyard and the picture was taken in the month of January. The plants have been about this size since late November and in this particular year, have weathered an ice storm that piled 4" of solid ice on top of them, and who knows what is yet to come before springtime!
It takes several years to get a good bunch of bluebonnets growing. I used seeds and plants to start my backyard bluebonnet garden.
Mid-February to Mid-March
The plants begin to form a carpet over the grass. Their tender green leaves are in contrast to the dormant grass around them. It's a melty good feeling to see green coming up from the earth!
A Few Weeks Later
The plants have grown to 2-3" in height and no flower buds are forming yet.
The First Flowers are Spotted
The flower stem comes up from the middle of the plant. It starts white in color and as it grows upward turns to purple. When the flower opens up, the fullness occurs over a period of about a week or 10 days but since all the plants do not flower at the exact same time, you get good color for about 3 weeks.
Just Before Peak Color
Flowers are out but not in full bloom
It's getting exciting! Here is a wide view of the white-topped flower soon to be purple in just another week or so.
Full Blown Color
The time we wait for all year long - full blown color from our crop of bluebonnets! The bees are busy on the flowers and these hearty plants blow in the spring winds and never look worse for the wear. I walk out to my yard of bluebonnets several times each day, checking on them and enjoying their splendor.
This picture happens to be looking out towards our backyard garden with the bluebonnets in the forefront.
Throwing the Seeds
The flowers have faded and stems are spindly and their beauty is reduced. However, one of the most important cycles of the plant is about to happen. It is extremely important to leave a mature plant alone and not pick it or mow over it. Bluebonnets throw their seeds to perpetuate the species. When the plant has gone to seed, the pods that have formed from the purple flower, will grow and expand and burst open and the seeds will land wherever they may. I have never seen this happen but I have watched a pod just up until it is ready, only to go view it the next day and boom! The pod has burst open and the only thing remaining is the empty spiral pod halves.
Please look in the upper right corner of the photo to see the enlarged pods very that are ready to burst. There is wonderful contrast in the photo as you can see a new flower shooting off the main stem of the spent plant proving the cycle has it's own plan and why you should not disturb the plants for about 2 months after blooming, not to mention that little lady bug!
Harvesting The Seeds
We let our plants go to seed each year in order to harvest some of them. Last year we collected over a hundred seeds and spread them on a different part of the yard. We will see what we get in the spring. It is an organic practice to harvest your own seeds, plus this enabled me to give some away so people could start their own bluebonnet garden in their yard.
The one downside to having these plants in your yard is you cannot mow until they have finished the cycle of throwing the seeds. This is a plus to my teenage boy who mows! So it's just how you look at it!
Bluebonnet Reproduction CycleClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Dormant Months
Hot Summer Through Early Fall
After you've collected the seed or let them all be thrown for natural reseeding, you can mow your bluebonnet flowers down. Most of them will be withered and dried. The seeds are now safely in the ground, snuggling into the dirt for the hot summer months where they will plant themselves and start to reemerge in November.
In the late fall, they are hardly noticeable in the early stages but I like to look for them, just to know they are there. This year some of the seeds ended up in our back yard fire pit and low and behold, we have bluebonnets growing there. Unfortunately, we will probably have a fire and destroy those plants but there should be plenty around the yard to enjoy.
Sleep tight little seeds!
Myth or Fact?
It is illegal to pick bluebonnets in the State of Texas.
False! It is not illegal, but it is highly discouraged! If you pick a plant, it will not complete it's cycle and throw it's seeds, so you have destroyed that chance of reseeding.
Please don't pick the bluebonnets!
Wildflower photos - Along the highways, byways, and backyardClick thumbnail to view full-size
My Google Maps - Austin, Texas
Actress Helen Hayes and Lady Bird Johnson founded the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1982. It is a wonderful place to visit especially in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming. It is a popular field trip for school children so they can learn about the beauty nature gives us and hopefully, the learning experience "plants a seed" in the children's hearts to want to continue this beloved subject of our former First Lady.
Some may wonder why I chose wildflowers when there are hunger and unemployment and the big bomb in the world. Well, I, for one, think we will survive, and I hope that along the way we can keep alive our experience with the flowering earth. For the bounty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man.— Lady Bird Johnson
Each year the weather predictions from the ever common drought threaten the spring ritual of the bluebonnets, but every year, Texans place their hope of spring on this perennial flower beating the odds and welcoming the season to the state. We are rewarded with the splendor of a purple carpeted highway or roadside, a beautiful family photo, or just the admiration in your own backyard.