State flowers are a really cool thing that helps many people take notice of their state and teh culture and symbols that define the culture of a state.
Often state flowers can be a plant that is native to the state’s climate, but it can also form some important symbolism related to the state.
In Texas, you may be surprised to hear we technically have five different state flowers, however they are all subsumed under the general genus of Lupinus, which you may have heard of as the ‘bluebonnet’.
Read on to learn more about this interesting flower.
What’s The Story Behind Our State Flower?
The actual decision to make the Lupinus, or bluebonnet, the state flower of Texas was originally easy but had certain developments as time went on.
The original decision on the Texas state flower came after there was some pressure from the Texas Legislature to choose one.
At the time, the bluebonnet was on a hotlist alongside cotton bolls as well as some cacti. Their final decision was the bluebonnet, or more specifically the Lupinus subcarnosus.
The Lupinus subcarnosus is a lowkey that only really appears in the early spring, the flowers are small and not too impressive which led people to think there were better candidates for the state flower.
The Texans felt they weren’t wholly represented by the subcarnosus and felt there were more impressive Lupnius varieties that symbolize their state in a more accurate way.
The next choice was the more flashier and showier Lupinus texensis. The texensis subspecies not only refers directly to our great state but is rife in our climate, growing all over the Texas Hill area.
As is always the case with federal legislation, the state flower wasn’t changed for a long time.
The state leaders of the time didn’t want to upset the original subcarnosus supporters but understood the reasoning of the texensis supporters, it was hard to please both.
Their solution was to aggregate all species of Lupinus by making the state flower of Texas the ‘bluebonnet’. By erecting this umbrella term over the debate, they walked straight into the botanists hands.
By 1971 the legislature included, in writing, that ‘any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded’ would be suitable.
The botanists of the state recognised at least five unique and different species of Lupinus, or ‘bluebonnet’ that were noteworthy in the area.
So, thanks to this strange piece of legislature wording, and the curiosity of the case, the state of Texas technically has five different, but the same, state flowers.
So, What Actually Is Our State Flower?
Here’s a rundown of the different Texas bluebonnets included as the state flower:
This is the ‘original’ state flower, or at least the one that was chosen originally. The species remains fairly endemic to the south of Texas.
This is as the plant particularly enjoys growing in sandy loamy soil and usually flowers around springtime. The subcarnosus generally has a pretty shy flower, the bits that do flower are lovely blue or sapphire color but remain closed for most of the season.
Arguably, this is the ‘bluebonnet’ you would associate most with the state of Texas. Beyond its obvious name, the texensis is particularly native to the state’s climate and grows pretty much everywhere.
While it’s regularly blue, especially cultivated varieties, they have been found to bloom in other colors in the wild. The texensis blooms in the fall but creates beautiful fields of sapphire flowers when it does. Unlike the subcarnosus the texensis whole raceme is covered in full flowers.
This particular subspecies of bluebonnet is one of the larger ones present in the state. They can grow to nearly three feet in height which is pretty large for the genus.
The subspecies ‘harvardii’ was named after the prominent botanist who found many plants in the state, Valery Havard’. This subspecies is often called the Big Bend after the Big Bend region in which the specific species grows pretty strongly.
This species is particularly unique among the Lupinus of this list as well as other Lupinus in the US. The plant’s foliage is rather hairy which provides a unique look.
The flowers often emerge in different colors in dense spirals of inflorescence out of which fruit is actually formed. Native to the southern regions of the state, the flower blooms in the early spring.
These particular bluebonnets are often found in the Texas Panhandle, the area is rife with these tall growing planets.
These Lupinus can grow up to two feet in height and often have an ombre inflorescence which makes them a specifically unique flower to behold they grow across the spring.
They are also known as the Nebraska Lupinus but don’t fear, our legislature includes this plant as our state flower.
The Final Word
So, there you go, the state flower of Texas is the Lupinus. Although, following the change in legislation, the actual state flower, or flowers, include any species of Lupinus that are found naturally in the Texan climate.
The story behind the Texas state flower embodies the Texan spirit: standing up for what you think is right, retaining power within the people of the state, being inclusive, and putting the culture of the state first before anything else.
Even those who don’t consider Lupinus as the state flower, can at least appreciate the noble pursuit of the botanists who are the heroes of this story.
One thing worth saying about this legislative and botanically interesting phenomenon is that if there was another species to split off from these species, that would be included too.
In other words, if there was a species to split off from one of these species and someone discovered it and could prove it was endemic to Texas it would become a state flower of Texas.
So if you are out and about and you see a Lupinus that looks a little unique, and isn’t already one of these, you could just find the next state flower of Texas.
It’s not that unlikely considering there has been a good 60 years since this legislature was put in place.