When exactly did I fall in love with Texas bluebonnets? It's been 39 years and they excite my soul more than ever!
This beauty arrived unannounced and stunned me on a backyard viewing. I let my flowers reseed naturally so I have no explanation where this gem came from. Nature at it's absolute best!
The Official Flower of Texas
One of the best things that happens in the state of Texas is the annual blooming of the wildflowers. If you ask a Texan their favorite flower, they will undoubtedly tell you that the bluebonnet is the most beloved of all wildflowers. These beautiful spring flowers emerge in stunning fashion, casting a hue of purple along highways, road sides, fields, flower gardens, and just about anywhere a seed can be dropped and grow.
The bluebonnet got it's name from the similar shape of a girl's bonnet. When you see them along the highway, they look purple, not blue, but I think you'll agree that bluebonnet sounds better than purple bonnet!
The rising of the bluebonnets is a rite of spring that is anticipated by millions, viewed by hundreds of thousands, and enjoyed by the inhabitants of the state. Come along, I'll show you the life of a Texas bluebonnet.
The Bluebonnet Life Cycle
In 1901, the Texas Legislature voted the lupins texensis as the state flower of Texas. Since then, this beauty of nature has been putting on a show with the help of Mother Nature. Following the life cycle of most wildflowers, the bluebonnet goes through many changes throughout the entire year.
Let's start with the plants emerging out of the dead grass. This is a plant in my backyard and the picture was taken in the month of January. The plants have been about this size since late November and in this particular year, have weathered an ice storm that piled 4" of solid ice on top of them, and who knows what is yet to come before springtime!
It takes several years to get a good bunch of bluebonnets growing. I used seeds and plants to start my backyard bluebonnet garden. At my local farmers market I spotted some plants that didn't look so good. I asked the lady how much she would take for them and she gave them to me. Those, along with some purchased seeds started my backyard bluebonnets.
Mid-February to Mid-March
The plants begin to form a carpet over the grass. Their tender green leaves are in contrast to the dormant grass around them. It's a melty good feeling to see green coming up from the earth!
A Few Weeks Later
The plants have grown to 2-3" in height and no flower buds are forming yet.
The First Flowers are Spotted
The flower stem comes up from the middle of the plant. It starts white in color and as it grows upward turns to purple. When the flower opens up, the fullness occurs over a period of about a week or 10 days but since all the plants do not flower at the exact same time, you get good color for about 3 weeks.
Just Before Peak Color
Flowers are out but not in full bloom
It's getting exciting! Here is a wide view of the white-topped flower soon to be purple in just another week or so.
Full Blown Color
The time we wait for all year long - full blown color from our crop of bluebonnets! The bees are busy on the flowers and these hearty plants blow in the spring winds and never look worse for the wear. It is yet another miracle of nature how the bees pollenate the flowers explained very well in this article. I walk out to the patch of bluebonnets several times a day, smiling in their goodness.
Throwing the Seeds
The flowers have faded and stems are spindly and their beauty is reduced. However, one of the most important cycles of the plant is about to happen. It is extremely important to leave a mature plant alone and not pick it or mow over it. Bluebonnets throw their seeds to perpetuate the species. When the plant has gone to seed, the pods that have formed from the purple flower, will grow and expand and burst open and the seeds will land wherever they may. I have never seen this happen but I have watched a pod just up until it is ready, only to go view it the next day and boom! The pod has burst open and the only thing remaining is the empty spiral pod halves.
There is wonderful contrast in the photo as you can see several stages all at once. A few blooming flowers, pods ready to burst, and the remaining empty spirals of pods that have thrown their seeds. This is a great example of letting nature take it's course, and a beautiful one at that.
Harvesting The Seeds
We let our plants go to seed each year in order to harvest some of them. Last year we collected over a hundred seeds and spread them on a different part of the yard. We will see what we get in the spring. It game me pleasure to give some seeds away and I brought some to our local library as they have a seed library in place.
The one downside to having these plants in your yard is you cannot mow until they have finished the cycle of throwing the seeds. This is a plus to my teenage daughter who mows! So it's just how you look at it!
Bluebonnet Reproduction Cycle
The Dormant Months
Hot Summer Through Early Fall
After you've collected the seed or let them all be thrown for natural reseeding, you can mow your bluebonnet flowers down. Most of them will be withered and dried. The seeds are now safely in the ground, snuggling into the dirt for the hot summer months where they will plant themselves and start to reemerge in November.
In the late fall, they are hardly noticeable in the early stages but I like to look for them, just to know they are there. In a recent year, some of the seeds ended up in our back yard fire pit and low and behold, we have bluebonnets growing there. Unfortunately, we will probably have a fire and destroy those plants but there should be plenty around the yard to enjoy.
Sleep tight little seeds!
Wildflower photos - Along the highways, byways, and backyard
My Google Maps - Austin, Texas
Actress Helen Hayes and Lady Bird Johnson founded the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1982. It is a wonderful place to visit especially in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming. It is a popular field trip for school children so they can learn about the beauty nature gives us and hopefully, the learning experience "plants a seed" in the children's hearts to want to continue this beloved subject of our former First Lady.
Some may wonder why I chose wildflowers when there are hunger and unemployment and the big bomb in the world. Well, I, for one, think we will survive, and I hope that along the way we can keep alive our experience with the flowering earth. For the bounty of nature is also one of the deep needs of man.
— Lady Bird Johnson
2019 brought the most vibrant display of wildflowers to Texas and 2020 promises the same. There is no worry of drought to threaten the spring ritual of the bluebonnets this year. It is tradition that Texans place their hope of spring on this perennial flower and others to reward us with the splendor of a purple carpeted highway or roadside, a beautiful family photo, or just the admiration in your own backyard.
Have You Ever Seen Bluebonnets in Texas? - Or perhaps other wildflowers in the spring time
Jill Spencer from United States on November 16, 2015:
Once on the way to Abilene, I saw a field of these. They were gorgeous!
Queen--Elizabeth on April 10, 2014:
Only in pictures... I love flowers, and blue bonnets look so pretty in the pictures.
Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on April 06, 2014:
@Craftymarie: I hope one day you can see them in person. Thanks for the kind words!
Marie on April 06, 2014:
I live in the UK and have never seen this flower - what a treat on the screen. Wish I could come and see them for real :)
Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on March 05, 2014:
@anonymous: Thank you and so glad you enjoyed this lens - it certainly comes from my heart. I love your description of the WI lupines and hope to see them someday!
Dawn from Maryland, USA on March 05, 2014:
I've never seen Bluebonnets...definitely not in Texas. Would love to see them now, after this wonderful show!
anonymous on March 05, 2014:
So many great nuggets in this lens! Following Twitter is such a good idea for wild-flower viewing in any region. Blue Bonnets look similar to the lupines from Wisconsin, except the northern flower seems to have more red, thus varying shade of pink and purple. Beautiful photos!
Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on March 05, 2014:
@Diana Wenzel: Thank you! Sometimes it is difficult to describe what these flowers and the season of them do to my soul!
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on March 05, 2014:
Having lived the majority of my life in Texas, I have been blessed with many wildflower seasons (my favorite season of all). Oh how I love the bluebonnets (and the Indian Paintbrush, too). They are so glorious. Wonderful lens! Just beautiful.
Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on February 24, 2014:
@ChocolateLily: I am acutely aware of wildflowers now in all parts of the country but never even noticed them growing up. So thankful my eyes were opened to this beautiful gift of nature. Thanks for your support!
ChocolateLily on February 24, 2014:
Here in the southeast, we have a lot of wildflowers blooming in the spring. Some highways and interstates have wildflower patches along them which are stunning. I am looking forward to the flowers in our yard to come up. I enjoyed your lens and photos!
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on February 03, 2014:
What a pretty flower and ground cover!
Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on January 28, 2014:
Beautiful site! I haven't seen them in person but would love to. Great lens.
Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on January 27, 2014:
@Old Navy Guy: My pleasure! Your comment makes my lens even better!
RinchenChodron on January 27, 2014:
Nope, never been to Texas. It's on the list.
Old Navy Guy on January 27, 2014:
Thank you Lady Bird Johnson. These flowers are visible almost everywhere in Texas and are a stunning site to behold. Thanks for sharing
Joanie Ruppel (author) from Keller, Texas on January 21, 2014:
@captainj88: Ha Ha, paying attention to where you are can be distracting! Hope you get a chance again!
Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on January 20, 2014:
Never saw them while I was there, or maybe I did and was so busy trying not to miss my exit that I missed them! They're lovely.