Not Every Bonnet is Blue

Horticultural specialists like Jerry Patterson have spent years developing new bluebonnet colors — especially white, lavender, and maroon — but their work is based on the  natural color variations that show up from time to time in Texas fields.

Over the past decade, I’ve found at least one white and one yellow bluebonnet each year during the plant’s season, but until last weekend I never had found the nearly-mythical pink bluebonnet, and never expected to see one. Yet there it was: blooming at the edge of Farm to Market Road 532 between Moravia and Moulton.

Over time, legends developed around this rare flower, including the claim that its color reflected the blood that flowed from the Battle of the Alamo. In fact, Jerry Patterson himself once said that the only native pink bluebonnets he’d ever found grew south of San Antonio, near the river. Perhaps that’s still true for Patterson, but this gem was blooming well east of San Antonio, and nowhere near a river.

Legends aside, the flower’s presence on that mid-April morning brought to mind a favorite poem. Written by Amherst resident Robert Francis, “Bouquet” is perfectly suited to celebrate the whisper of a single pink bluebonnet nearly lost in a babble of blue.

 

One flower at a time, please,
however small the face.
Two flowers are one flower
too many, a distraction.
Three flowers in a vase begin
to be a little noisy.
Like cocktail conversation,
everybody talking.
A crowd of flowers is a crowd
of flatterers (forgive me).
One flower at a time.  I want
to hear what it is saying.
                                        “Bouquet” ~ Robert Francis

 

Comments always are welcome.

59 thoughts on “Not Every Bonnet is Blue

  1. What a perfect pink bluebonnet you found Linda! It must have felt awesome to realise this dream, both you and the pink bluebonnet are absolute stars. Well done!

    1. This pretty flower’s a perfect example of why I always pay attention to impulses to stop along the road. While one thing or another may attract my eye, I often find the real treasure is something entirely different. And sometimes I just feel a compulsion to stop for no apparent reason. That was the case here. The bluebonnets were a little sparse, and the phlox didn’t seem special, but in the midst of it all, I found the treasure. Who knows how many other treasures are out there, just waiting for someone to stop and look?

      1. Beautiful thoughts, so beautifully written. Thank you for this lovely gift, received with gratitude at the start of my day, Mon 18th. What a way to start Easter Monday.

  2. Sometimes nature’s flubs are the “oops, I meant to do that” kind. If somebody was smart, they’d keep an eye on that sport and collect its seeds to sell to a breeder, or breed it themselves.

    1. I know almost nothing about plant breeding, but I do know that more than one pink flower would be necessary for more pink flowers to emerge; getting a colony started would be the first step. It’s also possible that the pink flower’s seeds wouldn’t produce pink flowers. On the wildflower.org site, Mr. Smarty Plants had this to say on the subject:

      “The white bluebonnet… is the result of a mutation in one of the genes responsible for producing the blue pigment of the flower. There are color variations other than white that show up occasionally (e.g., pink) but neither the white flower nor any of the other variants are true breeding.

      In other words, if they are sitting in a field with mostly normal bluebonnets, the pollen that the white ones receive will most likely be from the normal bluebonnets. This pollen will mask the mutation in the next generation so that they will have blue flowers instead of white. Some white ones will still surface every so often since blue flowers can carry but mask the mutant gene that causes white flowers. To produce white flowers, an egg with the white mutant gene must be fertilized by pollen which also has the mutant gene. If you want a population of all white bluebonnets, the white parent flowers have to be fertilized only by pollen that carries the mutation.”

  3. I think he makes a case for one flower at a time, but yesterday I saw the first Bloodroot of the spring and soon they will carpet the woodland, and that’s hard to beat. They’ll be joined by Trout Lily and Dutchman’s Breeches, Hepatica and Trilliums. Cohosh will join in the fun too. Hmmm…one flower? Maybe not!

    1. Or both! the fields thick with flowers, as well as the occasional sport. And how interesting to read the names of your spring flowers and realize that I’ve never seen a single one of them, let alone their carpets of color. I presume there might be a photo or two!

    1. I especially smiled at his title: “Bouquet.” We tend to think of a bouquet as multiple flowers, but the thought of a single flower as a bouquet pleases me.

  4. “Babble of blue” is a good example—alliterative at that—of synesthesia, the treating of one kind of thing (here sound) as another (here color).

    Speaking of sound and color, look at the names of the hybrid tomatoes in your linked article: Spring Giant, Bonus, Big Set, Celebrity, Jack Pot, Bingo, Carnival, Whirlaway, Heatwave, SunMaster, Surefire, Merced, Amelia, Solar Fire, SunPride, Tomato Sweet Cherry Rodeo Surprise.

    “Two flowers are one flower / too many” reminded me of Benjamin Franklin’s adage: “Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”

    1. The need to come up with attractive and memorable names for marketing purposes leads down some surprising and sometimes amusing paths. And speaking of amusement, I’ve never heard that Franklin adage. Sometimes, even one can’t keep a secret.

      “Babble of blue” gave me a smile, too. It took a while to find the phrase, but it seemed perfect.

  5. Fantastic!
    I think it should be referred to as: “Pink Joy’d…Light Side of the Bloom”
    (Oh, Jeeez…please forgive me)
    Never, never have I seen one of these. Now I have a new quest.
    Thanks, Linda.

    1. I’ve read of these often enough that I had to believe they existed, but I certainly never expected to come across one. When I did, it took a minute or two for me to realize I actually was looking at a pink bluebonnet. I’d already found three white ones, which was exciting enough, but this was the cherry-colored topper for my Sunday.

  6. Wildseed Farms is selling Alamo Fire/ Maroon Bluebonnet or as some know it as the Aggie Bluebonnet. It says in the description it took over 20 years to develop for market. I still prefer the blue.

    1. Jerry Patterson was behind the development of that maroon flower, as well as some others. I’d never plant them; they just don’t seem real to me. On the other hand, I always delight in finding white bluebonnets in the wild, and finding this pink one was thrilling. It was as though nature had taken my wishes to see one seriously, and gave me an unexpected gift.

    1. The white bluebonnet is uncommon, but more often seen than the pink, which truly is rare. I’ve never before seen one, despite years of roaming among the wildflowers. The uncommon yellow bluebonnets are among my favorites; their color often is a light, lemon chiffon pie yellow rather than the yellow of a sunflower.

    1. It looks a pure pink to me, and what I see on my computer is what I saw in real life. Definitions vary, of course, but different computer monitors can show things differently, depending on how they’re calibrated.

      The flowers that are fading toward the bottom do have a bit of a lavender tinge to them.

    1. Yes, and I have some white ones to show, too. I found three on this trip, but I felt like the pink one deserved a post of its own, since it’s the more rare.

  7. I’m not sure I’d have recognized this pale pink flower as a bluebonnet. By the way, is it still called a “bluebonnet,” despite its color?? Excellent capture, Linda. It’s quite pretty (but you know I’ll always be partial to the really blue ones, ha!)

      1. After you see the truly white ones I found, the difference between those and this pink one will be obvious. And see my response to Debbie’s comment about the name for a bit more information.

        1. Having now seen a picture of a really white one, I can see that there is a big difference. And I would love to see the blue ones en masse – what a sight!

    1. Yes — all of the bluebonnet species are known by that name, even if they’re pink, yellow, or white. In that sense, ‘bluebonnet’ is like ‘rose.’ There are yellow, white, and red roses, all called by the same name despite the differences in color. For me, the blue shines, and I don’t think large fields of pink or white bluebonnets would be nearly so appealing. Still, plants like this are great fun to discover hidden away in the midst of all that blue.

    1. I had to look up lupines to remind myself of their appearance. It was interesting to find the articles that mentioned that they’re sometimes found in white or pink — just like our Lupinus texensis. For once, I didn’t suffer white-flower envy when I saw Steve’s post. I found some white bluebonnets on this trip, too, and they’ll show up here eventually.

    1. I’d not thought about it until I looked again at those nearly-coral spots, but I think I know the reason for their color. Bluebonnets have a white banner that turns reddish once pollination takes place; it’s a signal to pollinators to pass by and seek a fresher flower. The flower at the very top of this one still is white, while the others are darker. I suspect those are flowers that already have been pollinated.

  8. That’s so pretty — and given that it’s so elusive, what a wonderful and very lucky find. Said it before and I’ll say it again — you DO have the best wildflowers!

    1. There certainly are other areas of the country that have wildflowers that equal ours. California poppies, desert cactus blooms, and carpets of bluebells come to mind. That said, ours can be pretty dramatic en masse, and lovely as individuals. I certainly do enjoy sharing them with you!

  9. Well, heavens above. I had no idea there were bluebonnets that were not blue. On the other hand, why not? Mother Nature’s flowers are infinitely varied.

    1. This is my first sighting of a pink one. The white version, while not at all common, is at least ‘findable’ for anyone who spends time in the fields, just as there are white and yellow Indian paintbrush. I’m intrigued by how many blue and pink flowers will sometimes pop up in white; I’ve got another of those anomalies to show, and it was only a few miles from home.

  10. That which we call a Bluebonnet, would be as beautiful in any other hue.
    (Apologies to the bard.)

    Once again, Nature offers surprises for the diligent. I love the poem and think the author would understand if I am able to view a field of wildflowers with enjoyment while kneeling to converse with a single member of that crowd.

    1. After I post April’s Walden West entry, I have another bluebonnet to share that perfectly illustrates the point you make about the individual and the crowd. It’s not often that the sight of a wildflower brings actual, out-loud laughter at the improbability of a flower, but it did — just as this pink one brought surprise and delight once I’d figured out what I actually was seeing.

    1. I’ve found an occasional white one, but I’d only heard about the pink, and I never expected to come across one. Now, I’m sure I’ll find another some time. Every time I discover a flower that’s new to me, I begin to see others; it’s the botanizer’s version of “I once was blind, but now I see.”

    1. Every bouquet is made up of individual flowers, and both offer rewards. Only the focus differs. While I can appreciate the work of the plant breeders, there’s something about finding these natural variations that pleases me even more.

        1. I sang it for years before knowing it was a film. It was just one of those songs that everyone knew and delighted in singing during the Easter holiday.

  11. Nice! I’m glad you found this rare one. That’s a treat, indeed. I think we’ve talking about it before but I’m always fascinated by these flowers that have less common color variations (Virginia bluebells are an example around here that have a white variant).

    1. It happens in the animal kingdom, too. In Excelsior Springs, Arkansas, there’s a colony of white squirrels. They aren’t albino, they’re just a naturally white variation. While I was there, I didn’t see one of the pure white ones, but I did get a photo of a grayish-brown one with a pure white tail.

      I found some white bluebonnets on this trip, too, but I decided to separate the bluebonnet posts a bit so this one could have pride of place for a while.

    1. When I go roaming with wildflowers in mind, I always have my camera at the ready; it’s a wonderful tool of exploration, and I do enjoy finding little treasures to share! Pink bluebonnets seemed mythical to me — I hardly could believe I’d found one. At first, I just sat there and looked at it, but I finally decided it was real, and many photos ensued.

    1. They may be. There’s at least one yard here where they’ve planted the “Aggie” maroon bluebonnet, and places like Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg sell the seed. I’m not sure if you can purchase the white, too, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

      I’m sitting here watching it rain, and looking at the radar. It looks like you’re getting some nice rain, too — it’s been essentially windless here, and steady but relatively light. It’s a perfect rain.

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