It must be spring here in Texas, because the beautiful wildflower we call the bluebonnet is starting to spring to life. This is the way that every true Texan knows that winter has passed. In fact, the two major strains of the bluebonnet don't grow anywhere in the world except in Texas.
Historian Jack Maguire wrote, "It's not only the state flower but also a kind of floral trademark almost as well known to outsiders as cowboy boots and the Stetson hat. The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England and the tulip to Holland."
According to the website aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu, the Texas legislature in 1901 declared one strain of the bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus) to be the state flower. This touched off a 70-year dispute with those who wanted the showier strain of bluebonnet (Lupinus texenis) to be the state flower.
In 1971, the Texas legislature made all varieties of the bluebonnet the official state flower. This means that Texas actually has five state flowers, since the bluebonnet has five different strains. They are:
1.Lupinus subcarnosus, the original champion and still co-holder of the title, grows naturally in deep sandy loams from Leon County southwest to LaSalle County and down to the northern part of Hidalgo County in the Valley. It is often referred to as the sandy land bluebonnet. The plant's leaflets are blunt, sometimes notched with silky undersides. This species, which reaches peak bloom in late March, is not easy to maintain in clay soils.
2.Lupinus texensis, the favorite of tourists and artists, provides the blue spring carpet of Central Texas. It is widely known as THE Texas bluebonnet. It has pointed leaflets, the flowering stalk is tipped with white (like a bunny's tail) and hits its peak bloom in late March and early April. It is the easiest of all the species to grow.
3.Lupinus Havardii, also known as the Big Bend or Chisos Bluebonnet, is the most majestic of the Texas bluebonnet tribe with flowering spikes up to three feet. It is found on the flats of the Big Bend country in early spring, usually has seven leaflets and is difficult to cultivate outside its natural habitat.
4.Lupinus concinnus is an inconspicuous little lupine, from 2 to 7 inches, with flowers which combine elements of white, rosy purple and lavender. Commonly known as the annual lupine, it is found sparingly in the Trans-Pecos region, blooming in early spring.
5.Lupinus plattensis sneaks down from the north into the Texas Panhandle's sandy dunes. It is the only perennial species in the state and grows to about two feet tall. It normally blooms in mid to late spring and is also known as the dune bluebonnet, the plains bluebonnet and the Nebraska Lupine.
Each year the Texas Department of Transportation sews about 30,000 pounds of the seeds along Texas highways. Because of relatively dry weather in the past few months, only an average crop of bluebonnets is expected this year. However, a wet Spring could increase the yield.
It's hard to explain what a Texan feels when viewing a field of bluebonnets. It just seems to symbolize hope, beauty and everything that's good about Texas.