Texas state flower, bluebonnets herald the arrival of spring

Regardless of what the calendar decrees, spring in Texas begins when the bluebonnets appear. The first Bluebonnet sightings of 2017 were in early February and just a month later the celebration of the wildflower season is in full swing throughout the state. Today, the native wildflower is as well-known a symbol of the Lone Star State as cowboy boots and longhorn cattle. Tourists come from around the world to watch Texas turn blue. For stressed students, spending some time among the bluebonnets is an excellent way to unwind.

Camilia Maier, in an article for Native Plant Society of Texas website, said long before Europeans encountered them, bluebonnets were known and cherished by the indigenous nations living in Texas. Anglo-Europeans renamed the flower for the sunbonnets women wore to protect themselves from the intensity of the Texas sun.

According to Maier, the Texas Legislature declared the bluebonnet to be the state flower in 1901. Confusion quickly followed as there are six native varieties of bluebonnets. After years of debate, the Legislature changed the original statute in 1971 to make all varieties of bluebonnets the state flower of Texas.

The variety most people are familiar with is “Lupinus Texensis,” a tall spike of thickly clustered blue blossoms planted with other wildflowers flowers frequently found in road dividers and along highway roadsides. This innovative conservation program originated from the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center (LJWC) at the University of Texas, Austin.

Founded by former First Lady from Texas, Ladybird Johnson, and actress Helen Hayes in 1982, the LJWC is dedicated to the conservation of native landscapes threatened by development and invasive species. According to the website, the center manages The LJWC collaborated with the George W. Bush Presidential Center in 2013 to create a 15-acre Blackland Prairie park on the George Bush Presidential Library & Museum located on campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The Presidential Center offers free, docent-guided tours of the park on Saturdays at 10 and 11 a.m. through June 17, weather permitting. For more information visit www.georgebushlibrary.smu.edu.

Another opportunity to experience the spectacle of the bluebonnets in full bloom is the Bluebonnet Trails Festival in Ennis, Texas, April 7-9. Ennis is also home to the Official Bluebonnet Trail, 40 miles of driving trails that will be in peak season from April 1-30. For more information visit www.bluebonnet.org.