The Bluebonnet: Her Whole Story*

Please visit the artists’ webpages to see more incredible works like the pictures of their paintings below this article.

The Timeless Bluebonnet

Texas proclaimed for her state flower the Bluebonnet. Texas legally protects her flower from pilfering and destruction, and she also spreads her Bluebonnet seeds freely throughout her byways and highways via Lady Bird Johnson’s Wild Flower Center at the University of Texas at Austin through a program managed by the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT). No new news in these facts because Texans have all known this since before they were born, right? Right!

I thought I knew all about Bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers like the Indian Paint Brush, Indian Blanket, Primrose, Mexican Hat, Texas Thistle, and the Sun Flower just to name a few of the 5,000 native blooming plants in Texas recognized by the Wild Flower Center and DOT. Many of these plants are native to other ecoregions, but these plants are all native to Texas.

Often, when researching for my stories, I find other paths to follow for my next story. Imagine my surprise when I found out that a lengthy history of legislative drama occurred concerning the Bluebonnet while researching the Jessie Moore story. The Bluebonnet had to fight the Cotton Boll and Prickly Pear Cactus to earn her star status as Texas’ great state flower. She won with awe and honor.

The Bluebonnet Dons Her Armor and Weapons

This battle of the Texas state flower hinged between wealthy businessmen and state legislators who wanted their state flower to represent what Texas stood for in terms of agricultural wealth when it came to the state plant and the ladies of Texas’ high society.

The ladies desired that the Bluebonnet represent Texas, and the men wanted to boast with a Cotton Boll or a Prickly Pear Cactus.

Specifically, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America’s Texas Chapter pushed for the Lupinis Subcarnosus, or Bluebonnet, to become the Texas state flower.

In 1901, this flower in question was also called the Buffalo Clover, Wolf Flower, and El Conejo (the rabbit). This flower caused a boisterous argument to erupt on the Texas House of Representative’s floor.

In March, 1901, choosing the state flower was on the Texas House agenda in a regular session. The Texas Senate had peacefully passed their resolution in 1900.**

Let No Man Win

All was not so peaceful in the Texas House of Representatives. Rep. Phil Clement backed an open Cotton Boll which the cotton industry referred to as the “White Rose of Commerce”. Rep. John Nance, aka Cactus Jack, fought with the thorns of the Prickly Pear Cactus.

When Rep. John Green announced his proposal for the Bluebonnet, the house floor rose in cacophony with questions like this and other not so polite calls,

“What the devil is a Bluebonnet?”

She, The Bluebonnet, Is a Skillfull Diplomat

The Colonial Dames were in attendance. With perfect timing and at that point of the house discussion, the ladies sent out for a painting of a blooming Lupinis Subcarnosus by Miss Mode Walker of Austin and hung it in the house chamber. The visual of the beautiful flower silenced the representatives.

The Regular Session of the 27th Texas Legislature voted the Bluebonnet/Buffalo Clover as the official Texas state flower on March 7, 1901. Done and done, right? Wrong!

The Bluebonnet resolution was only the beginning of the great flower of Texas debate. A 70-year controversy ensued. In 1901, the people in charge of the status of the Lupinis Subcarnosus did not know that there were just a few more species of the Bluebonnet growing all over Texas.

Bluebonnet's Five Sisters

The 70-year debate arose intermittently in the Texas House and Senate with the recurring introduction of a bill to change the species to the larger and more flamboyant Lupinis Texensis.

Lupinis Subcarnosus grows in one region of Texas. This species is also called the Sandy-Land Bluebonnet and is smaller with less flower petals than the Lupinis Texenis.

On March 8, 1971, the Texas Legislature legally recognized six species of the Bluebonnet as the Texas state flower: L. Subcarnosus, L. Texensis, L. Havardii, L. Plattensis, L. Concinnus, and L. Perenis.

Bluebonnet Fun Facts

Today, the Bluebonnet is the Texas state flower, and the Prickly Pear Cactus is the state plant.

Laws concerning Bluebonnet picking in Texas: According to Texas State Trooper Robbie Barrera, “It is not a violation of the law to pick bluebonnets, though you do need to be cautious if you choose to pick a Bluebonnet, where you pick them. Don’t go on someone’s private property. If your neighbor is growing Bluebonnets and you go and pick those, then yes, that would be a violation of the law. But the Bluebonnets themselves out on the side of the road, if you choose to pick them, it’s not against the law.”

Travelers need to observe rules and precautions to pick from Bluebonnet fields along state highways. Park as far off the highway as possible before taking selfies or photos with the flower. Pick a few, but do not take up a shovel and dig up a bunch of Bluebonnets.

The Bluebonnet is a member of the pea/legume family.

The L. Texensis is the preferred species or The Bluebonnet of Texas.

The L. Texensis Bluebonnet sports approximately 50 blooms on one stem. The white buds on its tip gave it the name of El Conejo because it looks like a bunny tail.

A Bluebonnet breeding program for the Texas Sesquicentennial in 1982 created even more varieties. Rare native pink and white varieties bloom in some regions. The “Abbot Pink” Bluebonnet species is a seed-propagated Bluebonnet. First Lady Barbara Bush also has her own Bluebonnet cultivar aptly named the “Barbara Bush Lavender”.

A weed named Rapistrum, also known as the Turnip Weed, Tall Mustard, or Bastard Cabbage, seriously threatens our Texas state flower, and will rapidly turn a lush field of Bluebonnets into a baby-poop-yellow nightmare,

Before the invasion of Europeans, Native Americans told ancient stories about the Bluebonnet.

Known Bluebonnet history dates back to Pre-Columbian Native American societies.

In her book, The Legend of the Bluebonnet, author and illustrator Tomie de Paola tells us the story of a Comanche tribe that prayed for the end of a famine and drought, and how Bluebonnets arose from ashes.

“A member of the tribe, an orphan-girl named She-Who-Is-Alone, sacrificed her most prized possession, a doll, by burning it one night. The next morning Bluebonnet flowers were in bloom where the doll's ashes had settled, and the rain soon came.”

The original painting by Mode Walker is displayed in the Colonial Dames of America exhibit in the State of Texas Museum at the Neill-Cochran House, 2310 San Gabriel, in Austin and measures 15 ¾” X 19 ¾”.

You can call the Neill-Cochran Museum at:


Or visit them online at:

Tomie de Paola recites: “The Legend of the Bluebonnet”:


*For this article I am capitalizing the names of the flowers (just because I’m half Texan and I want to).

**I’m still researching the outcome of the Texas Senate resolution in 1900 and will amend.







1. Lone Bluebonnet Painting: Marcus Jackson Fine Art Gallery

2.Bluebonnet/LonghornPainting: Daniel Adams

3. Indian Paint Brush: Amy Tignor

4. Indian Blanket: Billy Hasselll

5. Primrose: Sue Kemp

6. Texas Thistle: Dawn Eaton

7. Sun Flower: Web Neel

8. Prickly Pear Cactus: Margaret Elizabeth Johnson N.D.

9. Mexican Hat: Jack Milchanowski

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