History of the Bluebonnet
by Martha Rogers
You know it's Springtime in Texas when the wildflowers bloom all over the countryside. One thing we're still able to do during this don't mingle and social distancing mode is to drive the country roads to view the bluebonnets. It's an excellent way to relieve boredom and being stir-crazy.
Bluebonnets are not only the state flower of Texas, but also one of the most loved and most often photographed flowers in our
state. Bluebonnets grow wild and re-seed themselves each year along the highways and bi-ways giving the countryside a wonderful light blue to an almost purple hue.
Native American Folklore is woven around the flower that has five different species and grows more profusely in Texas than anywhere else. Bluebonnets have a unique history built around a myth from the early days of the state when Indians roamed the prairies and the hillsides.
As the legend goes, after a devastating flood, an extremely hot summer and then a cold, dry winter, water became scarce and crops died. The tribal chief gathered his council and figured the Great Spirit was angry with them as disease spread through the tribe. As the tribe met one night, a little girl overheard them and became quite distraught. That night after everyone was asleep, she took her little corn husk doll with blue feathers and offered it for sacrifice on a hillside to the Great Spirit. She piled up coals and started a fire to burn her doll. After the doll burned and the ashes cooled, the little girl gathered up the ashes and swirled around on the hillside to toss them into the wind to the north, to the south, to the west and to the east. The next morning the hillsides were covered with beautiful blue flowers. When the tribal fathers find out, they renamed her One Who Dearly Loves Her People. They believed the Great Spirit had forgiven them, and the land once again flourished.
Several books have been written about the legend and are read in elementary classrooms across the state with special worksheets for the students to enjoy.
Historian Jack Maguire wrote, "It's not only the state flower but also a kind of floral trademark almost as well known to outsiders as cowboy boots and the Stetson hat." He affirmed that "The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England, and the tulip to Holland.
The five species are:
1. Lupinus subcarnosus: the original champion grows in sandy lands and reaches a peak in late March.
2. Lupinus texensis: the favorite of tourists and artists is the one which provides the blue spring carpet in Central Texas and is THE Texas bluebonnet. It's also the easiest to grow.
3. Lupinus Havardii: the Bin Ben or lChisos Bluebonnet and is most majestic with flowering spikes up to three feet tall.
4. Lupinus concinnus: an inconspicuous lupine only two to seven inches tall and is found in the Trans-Pecos region with its white, rosy purple and lavender blooms.
5. Lupinus plattensis: the only perennial species grows to about two feet tall and is also known as the dune bluebonnet and the Nebraska Lupine
In 1901, Texas Legislature designated the Lupus Subcarnosus bluebonnet to be the state flower over the cotton boll and cactus. It remained that way until 1977 when the Legislature included all five species.
For us Texans, the bluebonnet is much more than a simple state flower. We have an official bluebonnet tartan, a song, a city Ennis, a festival in Chappell Hill and a bluebonnet trail also in Ennis.
While Lyndon Johnson served as President of the United States, his wife Lady Bird, encouraged the planting of native plants along Texas highways and presented a bill to the Texas Senate that would clean up and beautify highways. The bill passed in 1965 and through her efforts and the bill, the flowers are now abundant along most major highways throughout the state.
What is your state flower?
My latest novel is set in the Houston area of Texas along a highway were bluebonnets grow in abundance.
Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Since receiving her first novel contract at age 73, Martha has written and published over 50 books. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to five. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years at the college level supervising student teachers and teaching freshman English. She is the Director of the Texas Christian Writers Conference held in Houston in August each year, a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and a member of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive.Find Martha at: www.marthawrogers.com, www.hhhistory.com