Tales of Texas - Bluebonnets
Between bluebonnets and Rodeo time, I find myself a bit nostalgic during February and March, with clear images of school field trips in blue jeans for Go Texan Day (which was a big deal because daily garb was a red, white, and blue school uniform and a skirt for yours truly) and forays away from the city out into the wilds of Chappell Hill and Brenham to see the Bluebonnets.
If you're from around these parts, you may have your own Bluebonnet traditions this time of year. Like many of you, I can recall car trips out Highway 290 to find a favored spot, get the family all arranged, and get that perfect Spring photo. What I'm saying is that many of us have some warm, fuzzy feelings about Bluebonnets, or even wildflowers in general, so here are some interesting tidbits of information to get you up to speed on Texas' favorite flower.
Indigenous inhabitants of the area, which included over 50 Native American tribes, were known for origin tales chock full of bluebonnets and other wildflowers, crediting them with everything from having natural medicinal qualities to being spiritual messengers sent from the heavens. The early Spanish priests used bluebonnet seeds to beautify the area around the missions, which gave rise to the myth that the plant came from Spain, but in fact, the two main species only grow natively in Texas, and can be found no where else in the world.
Just in case you're new to the area, Bluebonnets are the Texas State flower and have been since 1901. But did you know that the other flowers in the running were the cotton flower and the bloom of the Prickly Pear? John Nance Garner, who later became vice-president of the United States, advocated the Prickly Pear Cactus Flower for the role when he was a state representative, which is how he gained the nickname 'Cactus Jack'.
To name drop just a little more, Lady Bird Johnson, or Mrs. LBJ, along with actress Helen Hayes, created the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 in Austin with the mission to preserve and restore native wildflowers and landscaping. The Center is now part of the University of Texas system and flourishes with over 90,000 acres of landscapes impacted by the Center's projects. She was an environmentalist long before it was the trendy moniker it is today!
Though the word beautification makes the concept sound merely cosmetic, it involves much more: clean water, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued old landmarks as well as great parks and wilderness areas. To me…beautification means our total concern for the physical and human quality we pass on to our children and the future. - Lady Bird Johnson
My final bit of trivia - do you know if it is or is not illegal to pick bluebonnets? I'll cut to the chase and confirm for you that no, it is not illegal and never has been. The common misconception that it is has been around forever, so I'm here to set you straight. It is not illegal to pick them, however, it is illegal to trespass on someone's private property, and pick their bluebonnets, which would be considering stealing. You also can't block traffic to get to bluebonnets, even if they're on public land. And of course you can't destroy property, not even the state's, to get to said blooms. So, it's not illegal to pick the flowers, but there are a lot of activities that flower pickers could find themselves participating in, or so I've heard, to get to that perfect photo or bouquet. Don't break the law folks, no flower is worth the fine. Just drive on to the next field, there's more over there.
Bluebonnets can be found on highways and roadsides around less arid parts of the state, but Chappell Hill/Brenham, Ennis, and Fredericksburg are the areas I'm most familiar with. No offense to those not listed, they're all lovely. I particularly recommend the Bluebonnet Festival in Chappell Hill. It's more of a shopping and children's activity opportunity but is a great time!
Bluebonnet season typically lasts from sometime around March to April. We don't get to say it's a growing season thing, because weather, rainfall, etc. plays a big part in determining the timing. Also, TxDot (Texas Department of Transportation) avoids mowing wildflowers until they start to wither, unless essential for safety. Isn't that nice of them?
Oh, and one more thing. Don't eat them; bluebonnets are poisonous when ingested, for humans and pets.
Rebecca Robertson is a Realtor in the Houston area that likes to inform her neighbors, particularly the ones that may not originally hail from the Lone Star State, how wonderful we are down here (except maybe for traffic, and mosquitos, and hurricanes). But most other things around here are really awesome, and the vast majority of us are pretty friendly so as to make up for those tiny little annoyances. If you're thinking about moving down to the Houston area, or have friends or family who are, give her a call for a Realtor who knows and loves this zany neck of the woods.