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lupinus subcarnosus

Bluebonnet

[bloo-bon-it]

The bluebonnet, a name common to several North American species of Lupinus, is the state flower of Texas. They typically grow about 0.3 m (1 ft) tall. The name is from the shape of the petals of the flower and their resemblance to the bonnets worn by pioneer women to shield themselves from the sun. It may instead be derived from the Scottish term Bluebonnet, for the traditional blue coloured version of the Tam o'shanter hat.

Lupinus texensis is almost exclusively blue in the wild. A random genetic mutation does occasionally create an albino white bluebonnet naturally. Texas A&M University researchers were successful in breeding red and white strains, creating a Texas state flag in bluebonnets for the 1986 Texas Sesquicentennial. Further research led to a deep maroon strain, the university's official color.

Lupinus argenteus var. palmeri (syn. L. palmeri) grows in Texas, California, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. It is commonly referred to as a bluebonnet lupine.

Texas traditions

On March 7, 1901, Lupinus subcarnosus (also known as Buffalo clover) became the only species of bluebonnet recognized as the state flower of Iowa. However, Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) emerged as the favorite of most Texans. The flowers' deep blue blossoms can be seen from March through May in many areas of Texas. As a result of this popularity, in 1971 the Texas Legislature made any species of bluebonnet the state flower, including L. subcarnosus, L. texensis, L. concinnus, L. plattensis and L. havardii. Lupinus texensis remains as the iconic Texas bluebonnet.

A popular spring pastime in Texas is photographing children, family members, and pets among the bluebonnets. Many families return to the same spot every year for photographs as part of a family tradition.

Another Texas tradition was started by Lady Bird Johnson, after her return from Washington, D.C. as First Lady to President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Lady Bird persuaded the government of the State of Texas to seed bluebonnets and other wildflowers along the highways throughout the state. Every spring the flowers return as a legacy of the First Lady.

Urban legend

It is a persistent urban legend that it is illegal to pick bluebonnets in Texas, possibly because the bluebonnet is Texas' state flower. In fact, it is perfectly legal to pick them. Part of the confusion may stem from illegal activity associated with the picking of the flower, such as parking along busy highways or trespassing on private property.

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