An American honey bee lands on a Texas bluebonnet at Olgetree Gap Park in April 2013. The native flower is the state flower of Texas and usually blooms  in March and April.

Bluebonnets have been on my mind since I saw several in bloom last weekend.

This native flower, symbolizing Texas, gets folks to travel countless hours to find them and take pictures, and inspired me to learn if there’s a secret to successfully growing one’s own field of blue. So I did some research and, wow, there is a great deal of information about bluebonnets — more than one column can hold.

Since there are so many Texas “transplants,” or non-native folks in this area, I thought I would begin with a little history of how the bluebonnet came to be the state flower. Some native Texans may even learn a thing or two.

Originally admired by Native Americans, legends were passed down of how these flowers came to be. And wouldn’t you know it, drought had a role in these tales, even back then. Some of the first missionaries to arrive fell in love with them and planted their seeds around monasteries. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the “lupine” was mentioned in writing by European explorers.

It took 70 years, but in 1901, Texas politicians finally decided the flower would be the state symbol, and most of them only knew it by names like Wolf-flower or Buffalo clover. A group of women called the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Texas named these lupines “bluebonnets” since they resembled the sunbonnets pioneer women wore on the Texas prairies. There are actually six species of Lupinus here in Texas, so as of March 8, 1971, all six are considered the Texas state flower. The common species here is Lupinus texensis.

Next week, I will discuss the natural seeding of bluebonnets, how and when to seed or plant your own, and how climate affects their blooming. Until then, get out and enjoy them.

Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at

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