The surprising history of the Texas bluebonnet

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Best state flower, hands down (we might be a bit biased). | 📸 : @photofishtexan

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One look outside on a short drive around town is proof enough that spring has sprung, and the bluebonnets are in full bloom.

There’s nothing that fills us with Lone Star pride quite like looking out at the fields + highways lined with our gorgeous state flower, but at one point you may have wondered what makes this flower special?

Well, the history of the bluebonnet might surprise you.

Where did the name come from?

  • On March 7, 1901, the Texas Legislature adopted the bluebonnet as the state flower.
  • The flower is actually found in at least five different Lupinus species variations, however, only one bears the official name Lupinus texensis (amended on March 8, 1971) — yeehaw.
  • The flower’s common name was derived from its resemblance to a sunbonnet, which pioneer women would wear to protect themselves from the sun.
  • Lupinus, which roughly translates to ‘of the wolf’ or ‘wolf-ish’ in latin. The bluebonnet was once known as the Wolf Flower, perhaps due to the ‘claw-like’ petals that make up the keel.

The role of women in choosing the flower

  • Texas lawmakers (all men, at that time) originally wanted the cactus (for hardiness and orchid-like beauty) or cotton to represent the state. However, the National Society of Colonial Dames of America successfully petitioned their case for the Lupinus subcarnosus.
  • In 1933, ‘Bluebonnets,’ written by Julia D. Booth and Lora C. Crockett was adopted as the state flower song. While we couldn’t find a recording, you can read the lyrics.
  • Even today, our deep love for bluebonnets and Texas history continues to grow with books like ‘Bluebonnet at the Alamo,’ written by Mary Brooke Casad.

Can’t make the drive? Head to SAMA to see Onderdonk’s bluebonnet paintings. | 📸 : @ando_kurohige

Where to see bluebonnets

Peak bluebonnet season extends from late-March to mid-April. Lucky for you, we’re just a short drive away from the Texas Hill Country which often offers the best climate for the native Texan wildflower. From Fredericksburg to Marble Falls, here are a few places to stop.

  • Check out the Willow City Loop and Highway 16 between Fredericksburg and Llano. Expect a narrow two-lane ranch road that winds for 13 miles through some of the oldest and most unique geology in central Texas.
  • The Highland Lakes Bluebonnet Trail is not to disappoint with a ‘drive-yourself’ tour. You can even pick up a map at the Lake Buchanan Chamber of Commerce or the Marble Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau offices.
  • Take a tour through the Western Kerr, Bandera & Real County Scenic Drive, and don’t forget to bring your camera.

Speaking of cameras, here are some pro tips when trying to get that perfect snapshot.

  • Avoid shooting in the middle of the day. Instead try to shoot early or late in the day when the sun is lower in the sky (30 minutes after sunrise and 30 minutes before sunset).
  • Try using the backlighting technique. When the sun shines through the petals, it gives them an iridescent glow. Use a flash to front-light the subject and fill in the shadows.
  • Scout first, shoot later. If you’re serious about the perfect shot, consider a two-day expedition to plan where to return for that perfect spot at the perfect time the following day.
  • Don’t pick the bluebonnets. While it isn’t illegal, stomping or picking them won’t let them go into the seeding stage for the next year.
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