Bluebonnets, with Friends

Nothing says — or shouts — ‘Spring!’ like bluebonnets in Texas. Together with Indian paintbrush, they’re among our best-known and best-loved wildflowers.

For many people, bluebonnets and paintbrushes are the only wildflowers worth seeking, but in Colorado and Lavaca counties last Saturday, one of our bluebonnet species (Sandyland Bluebonnet, or Lupinus subcarnosus) was sharing the stage with several other flowers, including the Texas toadflax (Nuttallanthus texanus) shown here.

Six bluebonnet species grow in Texas; wisely enough, all six have been declared our state flower. Whether spread across a field in a blaze of blue glory or serving as a backdrop to other floral delights, they always bring a sigh of satisfaction and relief. When pecan trees bud and bluebonnets bloom, spring is well and truly here.



Comments always are welcome.

72 thoughts on “Bluebonnets, with Friends

  1. It must be really heart-lifting to see a field of these beautiful blues – as it also is to see your beautiful photographs. Pure joy!

    1. In another week or two, there will be pastures covered with bluebonnets. They’re just far enough along that it’s possible to see the blue “haze” over larger fields, but in most places, they’re still just hinting at the glory to come. I was thrilled to find these on the weekend, as well as buttercups, white prickly poppy, fringed puccoon, yellow star grass, prairie verbena… ‘Heart-lifting’ is exactly the right phrase.

      1. The blue haze sounds fabulous – the nearest we get to that here is a woodland full of bluebells. I’m hoping there may be a small chance of visiting one this year.

        1. I’ve seen photos of your bluebell-filled woods, and they’re glorious. Do they have a scent? I’d forgotten how lovely the scent of bluebonnets can be. It takes more than a few scattered plants for it to become discernible, but I think it’s as nice as lilacs.

          1. They do have a scent – especially if you’re in a bluebell wood, but not so noticeable if there’s just a few. So in that respect, a bit like your bluebonnets.

  2. I’ve learned, thanks to you, that wildflowers can be as beautiful as all others. What grows ‘like a weed’ in one area, is cherished in others.

    1. Not only that, wildflowers are as tough as they are beautiful. Some of ours may have been slowed a bit by February’s significant freeze, but they’re ready and willing to bloom. It seems that certain areas of the state will have fewer flowers this year, but that’s due more to drought than to cold. Still, we’ll celebrate whatever appears.

  3. Years ago, I was in Texas for a couple of weeks in the spring, during the time when Lady Bird Johnson was still living, and as you know far better than I, she had been a driving force behind the beautification of the highways and I have vivid memories of them. There were bluebonnets as far as the eye could see, or so it seems in memory, and it was a scene of incredible beauty. There were other flowers too, but as you have pointed out it is the bluebonnets that leave an indelible impression. I have been in many tropical places where the vegetation is both lush and beautiful, but I doubt that anywhere has ever imprinted itself on my mind more than the verge of a highway in Texas.

    1. Memory serves you well. In a good year, bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush can stretch across fields as far as the eye can see; it is almost indescribable. Like Kansas sunflowers or California poppies, those huge ‘color patches’ are a sight to behold. My personal indelible memory involves a year when my mother was visiting, and we took a drive to see the flowers. We found a field where bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes were thick and perfectly balanced — leading to an overall impression of purple. It was extraordinary: perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

      Speaking of highways, there’s an underpass in a nearby town where bluebonnets make their earliest appearance. I saw a single plant blooming there about two weeks ago, and took it as a signal that it was time to begin looking. It was!

    1. It’s a song I’d be happy to sing, Derrick. At least a couple of my readers are musicians. Perhaps we should fill out the lyrics and get one of them to compose the tune.

    1. See that scientific name: Lupinus texanus? They are lupines! At least, they’re in the same genus as garden lupines. There apparently are a couple hundred plants in the genus, which belongs in the Fabaceae; I’m glad we have these!

        1. Believe me: there were years when I didn’t notice (or pay attention) to scientific names. Now, I can remember a few, but at least I’ve come to understand the reason for them!

  4. Bah, Humbug! Not one single bluebonnet this year in the Big Bend. No rain for over a year means no bluebonnets. Here, they usually peak by March 1st. Our two meager little snows weren’t enough moisture to fool them into blooming.

    1. No wonder you’re bah-humbugging! I’ve seen a few more photos of bluebonnets in your area, but the operative word is ‘few.’ I suspect you’ve experienced years with such abundant flowers that there’s not much difference between ‘few’ and ‘none.’ I’ve heard reports from the hill country that suggest drought is affecting things up there, too. We’ve been getting light but consistent rains; I wish I could send some too you. Is there any chance that you’ll at least have cacti blooms?

    1. That’s true, although this year there are wide differences in the number of flowers from one area of the state to the other. We’re blessed around here, that’s for sure. Despite a bit of a slow start, it seems there will be plenty of flowers south of I-10.

  5. Spring!! I’ve seen a few blue swaths around my neck-of-the-woods here in Austin, but I think the show is just starting. Beautiful shots!

    1. If you look at that top photo, you can see a perfect illustration of ‘just starting.’ I don’t remember ever getting to bluebonnets so early in their bloom. The top half of many stems still are in bud, and I see only a couple of red banners on the far left edge of the photo. Those flowers are just waiting for their pollinators!

    1. I thought there were five, rather than six, but it’s entirely possible that I was wrong, or that they’ve added another species while my back was turned. They’re all so pretty — but learning about the different kinds has been interesting. Many online sites mention only five. A recent post from says there are Lupinus texensus, Lupinus subcarnosus, Lupinus havardii, Lupinus concinnus, Lupinus perennis, and Lupinus plattensis. As far as I know, I’ve seen only three.

    1. You’d love Texas in the spring, Jeanie. In 2019, wildflowers of all sorts bloomed extravagantly, so it’s hard to stop comparing this year to that one. Drought has been more of a problem for some places than our freeze, but the flowers are coming, and I’m going to scoot out as often as I can to see what’s happening.

  6. Your photos are so pretty I can almost smell what I presume is a wonderful scent in the air.

    1. The scent is wonderful. I can’t smell them if there’s only a small patch, but last weekend I found enough in one place that the scent was on the air. There are some local soapmakers who market various lotions and soaps as having a bluebonnet scent, but they don’t compare. Lilac and honeysuckle can come close when they’re duplicated, but I’ve yet to find a good bluebonnet scent.

  7. I need to get out and see some bluebonnets this season. I haven’t really had a chance so far. Our Arkansas trip really took away from that but that was a separate delight in itself.

    1. To paraphrase the old saying, so many flowers, so little time. I haven’t made it to east Texas yet this year, since I really wanted to find some of the more familiar spring flowers: not just bluebonnets, but paintbrush, buttercups, and so on. There’s supposed to be more rain over the next few days, and even if it’s light, I think it will encourage things along.

    1. I saw colonies of toadflax developing along the roads in Colorado and Wharton counties, so there’s no question it thrives in your area. As a matter of fact, I saw some along Alt 90 between East Bernard and Sublime — it was popping up along that whole stretch. It’s a delicate thing, but once the eye gets used to looking for it, it’s easy to spot.

  8. We spent about 12 years living in Texas. Our son was born there and he has remained to raise a family of his own.

    Gini and I are native Floridians and after retiring from Air Force life we returned to the Sunshine State.
    Each spring, we lament not being able to enjoy the waves of blue we took for granted those many years ago. Sigh.

    Thank you for letting us vicariously enjoy yours.

    1. Well, you have different blue waves to enjoy, and those of us who enjoy our annual floral blue wave still are capable of envying your ocean waves. Galveston’s beaches and waters aren’t Padre Island, let alone Florida.

      I wish I could send along the scent as well as the vision. Of course, bluebonnets aren’t this only flowers with a pleasing scent. I found a new colony of spider lilies large enough to scent the air, too. It’s pure luxury.

    1. Spring’s here, for sure. I had a sense that once it began, it was going to develop quickly, and that seems to be right. The big fields of bluebonnets and paintbrush are beginning to appear, but other flowers are joining them. To be honest, I love the mixed colors more than pure blue or red fields, and I’m eager for those to arrive.

  9. Never down in Texas at the right time to see bluebonnets. I imagine it would be visually stunning to see a hillside filled with blue. May be now that my sister-in-law has moved to Katy, we may have occasion to be down there at the right time.

    1. Katy’s a good location from which to begin a search, too. Right now, the area south and west of Katy along I-10 is producing some good color, and my hope is that it stays until I can get back into the area. Being able to be in two places at once — or three or four, for that matter — would be nice this time of year.

    1. It is pretty, isn’t it? The range of colors that can be present across a single species always surprises me — although, as you pointed out on your blog, some of the toadflax variation might be due to different species. Now that I’m done with my brow-furrowing over that, I’m ready to just smile at all this prettiness.

      1. Based on the botanical key, the long spurs in your pictures seem to confirm that you got the identification right, so no further brow-furrowing need ensue—at least not till the next inevitable quandary.

    1. I was going to say, “Can’t we all?” in regard to the jingle, but I suppose there are plenty of young ‘uns who wouldn’t have a clue about either the product or the jingle. I’d never thought about it, but the name of the margarine has nothing to do with the flower. I just pulled up an image of the package to have a look, and realized the blue ‘bonnet’ is an actual bonnet worn by a girl in the logo. All these years, and I’ve never made that connection.

  10. Bluebonnets are such beautiful flowers. I think of that song by Nancy Griffith, “Gulf Coast Highway”, every time I see photos of them.

    Toadflax is equally beautiful.

    1. I just pulled up “Gulf Coast Highway” from YouTube to have another listen, and found this video with some lovely visuals: a sweet, bluebonnet spring indeed.

      I had to smile at the reference in the song to Highway 90. These photos were all taken on Alternate 90, which runs parallel to old Highway 90, as well as Interstate 10. It’s pretty country.

      1. You live in a special place, Linda. I haven’t seen much of Texas, mainly just driving through many, many years ago. Before that, a brief stay in Houston to see friends, and a day trip into hill country and saw some caves. Drank goat milk and marveled at it being sold in regular milk jugs in the grocery store. I only scratched the surface.

        1. There’s so much to see, and more than a few people have been surprised by the diversities here: natural and human both. Most people know that Texas has its share of Hispanics and Germans, but they’re often surprised by the Italians, Danes, Czechs, Vietnamese, and Chinese who have been here for decades — nearly two centuries in some cases. And of course television and film encouraged views of the state as dry, deserty, and dusty. It can be that, but it’s much more.

  11. What a beautiful sight. Nothing like a blue carpet to uplift and inspire. The last image looks like a painting with a lovely background enhancing the spray of blue.

    1. I have a few more photos that show a broader view of the bluebonnets. They’re just beginning to fill the fields and pastures, and I hope I have a chance to visit them again before they begin to fade. They’re usually the “star of the show,” but they make a lovely background for other flowers too, as in that last image. I’m glad you like it; it was fun finding a way to let the toadflax shine. Those bluebonnets can be scene-stealers!

  12. Personally, I think the bluebonnets are a bit gaudy (heresy!). I prefer the toadflax. The flowers look a bit snapdragon-ish.

    1. The toadflax does have that snapdragon look. I always enjoy it when the public landscapers show up and add snapdragons to the medians and flower beds. Their colors are more varied, but the toadflax is lovely in its shades of lavender and blue.

      There’s something about the sweep of color across the hills I can’t resist. I will say that my favorite fields are those where there’s a mix of flowers. “Just” Indian paintbrush or bluebonnets can be impressive, but the combinations are so pleasing.

    1. You could have a multi-sensory experience in a field of these, Eliza. Their scent appeals to me as much as lilacs or rain lilies. It’s light, and a good number of flowers is required for the air to be perfumed, but if there’s scent to be enjoyed as well as sight — well, it’s Laniappe!

    1. They’re just beginning to bloom — or at least they were beginning last week. Whatever havoc the freeze caused, it clearly didn’t harm the bluebonnets or paintbrush. There are other flowers beginning to peek out, too: phlox and wine cups, Old Plainsman, flax — I’ve even seen a few white prickly poppies. What I’m uncertain about is the Acacia. I’ve not seen any evidence of their bloom, and they should have been loaded with flowers by now. All we can do is wait.

    1. Even people who claim to be jaded about bluebonnets go a tiny bit crazy when they’re suddenly blooming again. “Going to see the bluebonnets” is a ritual here, and why not? They’re certainly worth it — although it’s good to have a “secret” place to see them, and the flexibility to travel during the week. Otherwise, the roads can get a little crowded.

  13. Makes me homesick for my friend in Austin, whom I last visited there two April’s ago. She showed me the bluebonnets and then I read up more on Lady Bird and the wildflowers. This is Mother Nature Love. Your photography is astounding.

    1. I love showing off our wildflowers, so I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Did you have a chance to visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center while you were in Austin? I’ve not been there yet, but I’ve determined this will be the year I travel a little north and west, rather than usually south and west.

  14. I think if I had a bed spread made from that first image, it would be hard to start each day – such a lovely and comforting image that makes me want to roll those crisp and pure colors all around me!

    Am at the restaurant briefly, long enough to catch up just a little, but not long enough for quiet narrative visits… sigh.. but i have my health, and the sun is shining, and all – except skyrocketing Covid stats – is well here.

    1. I was lucky enough to find really fresh bluebonnets. A few may have aged enough for their banners to turn red, but I didn’t see them. Their fresh, undamaged nature certainly allowed that color to shine — combine it with crisp white sheets, and it would make a bed to equal any flower bed!

      It’s good to hear that you’re still doing well. Have you been able to be vaccinated? Some of the travel restrictions are being eased here, but complications of international travel still are real. I hope you have the freedom to get back to the States when you’re ready.

  15. There’s a lot about Texas I’d enjoy experiencing but I think bluebonnets are among those at the top. I rarely see swaths of any flower species hereabouts so my jealousy abounds as I look at the pictures you and Steve share.

    1. I was going to say it’s a seasonal phenomenon, but that’s not wholly true. In late spring and summer, other flowers can put on an equal show, but there’s just something special about the bluebonnets — especially when they’re combined with other flowers like Indian paintbrush. This was going to be the spring I headed east to search out things like trillium; so much for that! As soon as I figure out how to go two directions at the same time, I’ll let you know.

      1. I understand that dilemma. There are certain locations and flowers that just make me want to return annually and that causes me to not explore elsewhere or otherwise. I hope you find the bluebonnet/indian paintbrush combo in abundance.

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