The Texas Bluebonnet

by Gary Howerton

Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis or Texas lupine)

bluebonnetsThe blue bonnet flower figures in many Native American tales and Spanish missions planted these flowers around their missions leading to the impression that the blue bonnet came from Europe.

We are familiar with this plant, the state flower that was adopted in 1901. The selection was not a straightforward process since there are several varieties of blue bonnet. And some state senators favored the cotton boil.
The blue bonnet begins as a small rock-like seed that is impervious to damage because of an exterior that is stone-like. Most always the bluebonnet blooms in the spring, as early as March. It emerges as a seedling with the individual plants having two cotyledons. As the plant grows, it has a rosette of 5-7 leaves. The leaves are palmately compounded. They are about 3-10 cm long. As the plant base grows larger a 20-50 cm plume of flowers emerges.

These flowers are easy to grow. Just plant the seeds in moderately dry ground in October or November. The seeds need to under go scarification using a knife to nick a small quantity of seeds or use sand paper for large quantities of seeds.

Make sure the site gets at least 8 hours of sunlight.bluebonnets

Also, make sure, the garden site isn’t frequented by this plant’s only pest, the roly-poly or woodlice or doodlebug or pill bug or Amadillidium vulgare. These insects can etch open the stone seed and make a meal of the inner plant material.
Removing wood bits and leave litter before you plant the seeds can preclude the infestation of Amadillidium in your garden. If an infestation develops then place a half of cantaloupe upside down in your garden and when the pill bugs migrate to it you just throw into your compost pile.

Attached are photos of my blue bonnet garden. Based on the open spaces, it is clear I needed to plant the seeds earlier and/or my scarification process was inadequate. Next year I will broadcast a pound of seed onto my front lawn in November and use a coarser sheet of sandpaper for my scarification process.

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