Flora Fact: Blue Heaven
Bluebonnets blanket Texas roadsides and state parks for spring viewing.
By Louie Bond
When the pastures are green in the springtime
And the birds are singing their sonnets
You may look to the hills and the valleys
And they’re covered with lovely bluebonnets.
Those words penned by Julia D. Booth (and put to music by Lora C. Crockett) were true in 1933 when Texas adopted it as the Texas state flower song. The words were true in 1901, when the bluebonnet became the state flower. And they’re true today, as modern travelers cross country routes in search of the loveliest fields of blue for photography or for just pure enjoyment.
Texas boasts five species of bluebonnet — Lupinus subcarnosus, L. texensis, L. havardii, L. concinnus and L. plattensis — but L. texensis is the one most people refer to when describing the blue fields of Central Texas in springtime. This species has larger leaflets with sharper points than those of the other species. The leaves are usually composed of five leaflets radiating from a central point. The stems grow to heights of 6 to 18 inches, topped by a cluster of up to 50 blue and white flowers.
The name “bluebonnet” comes from the familiar shape, like a bonnet, and from the color, though rare white and pink varieties have been cultivated. Other names for the bluebonnet include buffalo clover and wolf flower. Sow seeds in early fall for spring blooms.
For decades, the Texas Department of Transportation has planted or nurtured bluebonnets and other wildflowers along the state’s roadways. Peak season for blooms typically is during the first two weeks of April in the Hill Country.
Some of the best state parks for viewing common species include LBJ State Park, Inks Lake State Park, Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historical Site, Dinosaur Valley State Park, Meridian State Park and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Other parks offer good viewing some years, depending on the weather: Goliad State Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Lake Corpus Christi State Park, McKinney Falls State Park and Stephen F. Austin State Park. See www.texasstateparks.org for more information on these locations.