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Bluebonnets - The State Flower of Texas

Updated on May 28, 2017
JoanieMRuppel54 profile image

To garden is to lose one's self in the earth while gifting yourself and your family with wholesome goodness from your own backyard.

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.

grass is still brown but this youngin' is fixin' to put out a flower
grass is still brown but this youngin' is fixin' to put out a flower

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!

The water droplet looks like a diamond in the center of the leaves.
The water droplet looks like a diamond in the center of the leaves.

Bluebonnets Seeds

It takes several years to get a good bunch of bluebonnets growing. I used seeds and plants to start my backyard bluebonnet garden.

Early Spring

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!

Top view of several stages all at once.  I love how the empty pods look like a dried flower themselves.
Top view of several stages all at once. I love how the empty pods look like a dried flower themselves.

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 Cycle

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The seed pods are fully formed and the seed inside is still growing.Much easier to see the seed now as it bulges inside the pod.  Some late bloomers in the background.They look like 3D stars, don't you think?The pod is drying out and changing color as the seed is also drying out.Right before they are ready to throw their seeds.The spiral of the now empty pod - seeds have been thrown!
The seed pods are fully formed and the seed inside is still growing.
The seed pods are fully formed and the seed inside is still growing.
Much easier to see the seed now as it bulges inside the pod.  Some late bloomers in the background.
Much easier to see the seed now as it bulges inside the pod. Some late bloomers in the background.
They look like 3D stars, don't you think?
They look like 3D stars, don't you think?
The pod is drying out and changing color as the seed is also drying out.
The pod is drying out and changing color as the seed is also drying out.
Right before they are ready to throw their seeds.
Right before they are ready to throw their seeds.
The spiral of the now empty pod - seeds have been thrown!
The spiral of the now empty pod - seeds have been thrown!
Growing in the fire pit
Growing in the fire pit

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 backyard

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Highway 6 north of Navasota flooded with bluebonnetsMe in a field of bluebonnets along highway 287 south almost to CorsicanaMy dear friend in a field of Bluebonnets and Indian PaintbrushA totally common site along the roadways in AprilPosing in a planned wildflower site (it was OK to do this!)Close up view of flowers almost fully formedA carpet of green amid the brown grassStarting to show their beautyPurple splendor against a cloudy skyNot only is the flower beautiful but this individual leaf is delicate after a spring rain fallSome folks incorporate bluebonnets into their landscapingThese are Indian Blankets in a field in a suburban area - stunning!purple beauty Very near DFW airport along the road
Highway 6 north of Navasota flooded with bluebonnets
Highway 6 north of Navasota flooded with bluebonnets
Me in a field of bluebonnets along highway 287 south almost to Corsicana
Me in a field of bluebonnets along highway 287 south almost to Corsicana
My dear friend in a field of Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush
My dear friend in a field of Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush
A totally common site along the roadways in April
A totally common site along the roadways in April
Posing in a planned wildflower site (it was OK to do this!)
Posing in a planned wildflower site (it was OK to do this!)
Close up view of flowers almost fully formed
Close up view of flowers almost fully formed
A carpet of green amid the brown grass
A carpet of green amid the brown grass
Starting to show their beauty
Starting to show their beauty
Purple splendor against a cloudy sky
Purple splendor against a cloudy sky
Not only is the flower beautiful but this individual leaf is delicate after a spring rain fall
Not only is the flower beautiful but this individual leaf is delicate after a spring rain fall
Some folks incorporate bluebonnets into their landscaping
Some folks incorporate bluebonnets into their landscaping
These are Indian Blankets in a field in a suburban area - stunning!
These are Indian Blankets in a field in a suburban area - stunning!
purple beauty
purple beauty
Very near DFW airport along the road
Very near DFW airport along the road

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.

A marker -
4801 La Crosse Ave, Austin, TX 78739
get directions

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

In Summary

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.

Have You Ever Seen Bluebonnets in Texas? - Or perhaps other wildflowers in the spring time

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    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 22 months ago from United States

      Once on the way to Abilene, I saw a field of these. They were gorgeous!

    • Queen--Elizabeth profile image

      Queen--Elizabeth 3 years ago

      Only in pictures... I love flowers, and blue bonnets look so pretty in the pictures.

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image
      Author

      Joanie Ruppel 3 years ago from Keller, Texas

      @Craftymarie: I hope one day you can see them in person. Thanks for the kind words!

    • Craftymarie profile image

      Marie 3 years ago

      I live in the UK and have never seen this flower - what a treat on the screen. Wish I could come and see them for real :)

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image
      Author

      Joanie Ruppel 3 years ago from Keller, Texas

      @anonymous: Thank you and so glad you enjoyed this lens - it certainly comes from my heart. I love your description of the WI lupines and hope to see them someday!

    • DawnRae64 profile image

      Dawn 3 years ago from Maryland, USA

      I've never seen Bluebonnets...definitely not in Texas. Would love to see them now, after this wonderful show!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      So many great nuggets in this lens! Following Twitter is such a good idea for wild-flower viewing in any region. Blue Bonnets look similar to the lupines from Wisconsin, except the northern flower seems to have more red, thus varying shade of pink and purple. Beautiful photos!

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image
      Author

      Joanie Ruppel 3 years ago from Keller, Texas

      @Diana Wenzel: Thank you! Sometimes it is difficult to describe what these flowers and the season of them do to my soul!

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      Having lived the majority of my life in Texas, I have been blessed with many wildflower seasons (my favorite season of all). Oh how I love the bluebonnets (and the Indian Paintbrush, too). They are so glorious. Wonderful lens! Just beautiful.

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image
      Author

      Joanie Ruppel 3 years ago from Keller, Texas

      @ChocolateLily: I am acutely aware of wildflowers now in all parts of the country but never even noticed them growing up. So thankful my eyes were opened to this beautiful gift of nature. Thanks for your support!

    • profile image

      ChocolateLily 3 years ago

      Here in the southeast, we have a lot of wildflowers blooming in the spring. Some highways and interstates have wildflower patches along them which are stunning. I am looking forward to the flowers in our yard to come up. I enjoyed your lens and photos!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 3 years ago from United States

      What a pretty flower and ground cover!

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Beautiful site! I haven't seen them in person but would love to. Great lens.

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image
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      Joanie Ruppel 3 years ago from Keller, Texas

      @Old Navy Guy: My pleasure! Your comment makes my lens even better!

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 3 years ago

      Nope, never been to Texas. It's on the list.

    • Old Navy Guy profile image

      Old Navy Guy 3 years ago

      Thank you Lady Bird Johnson. These flowers are visible almost everywhere in Texas and are a stunning site to behold. Thanks for sharing

    • JoanieMRuppel54 profile image
      Author

      Joanie Ruppel 3 years ago from Keller, Texas

      @captainj88: Ha Ha, paying attention to where you are can be distracting! Hope you get a chance again!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 3 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      Never saw them while I was there, or maybe I did and was so busy trying not to miss my exit that I missed them! They're lovely.