Pink, You Say?

Indian Paintbrush ~ Castilleja indivisa

Texas bluebonnets often are accompanied by Indian paintbrush: a gorgeous red-to-orange flower that perfectly compliments the bluebonnets’ color.

Sources affirm that the flowers sometimes produce white or yellow variants, but on the morning of March 4, I discovered one sporting pink bracts: the modified leaves surrounding the actual flowers. Not only was the paintbrush fresh and undamaged, it also provided a nice look at its flowers emerging from among the bracts.

That same weekend, another treat was waiting, tucked into this field.

Amid the sea of blue, a bit of pink was growing: a young Texas bluebonnet that for one reason or another had emerged in a different color.

Texas Bluebonnet ~ Lupinus texensis

Because the flower was behind a fence and some distance away, I put my telephoto lens to work, sticking it through the wires for a better look at the little anomaly.

Pondering the images later, it occurred to me that the flower was a young one, and still developing. I couldn’t help myself. Five days later, I returned to the field on a hunch, and was rewarded by the sight of the same flower: now more fully opened, and as pretty as any pink flower I’ve ever seen.


Comments always are welcome.

85 thoughts on “Pink, You Say?

    1. Sometimes, a certain kind of craziness sets in. Drive three hours on the off chance that a single flower still is in bloom? Why not? There are worse things to do on a Sunday morning!

    1. Genetics it is: recessive genes appearing as a mutation. It happens more often than I realized in the beginning. Pink or blue flowers seem to produce variants quite often. I see white bluebonnets more often than pink, but I also see white variants of pink flowers, and white variants of other blue/purple flowers like prairie gentian (Eustoma exaltatum ). The variants come and go pretty quickly, but if enough emerge in a single location, and the bees can pollinate from one mutant to another, the patch can last for a while. There was a patch of white prairie gentians at the Brazoria refuge for at least three years, but then they got mowed down, and that was the end of that.

        1. Well, in the case of the refuges, it’s well planned and part of the regular maintenance. In truth, that colony of white flowers would have disappeared eventually, and other considerations no doubt came into play. In the same way, our highway department does mowing, but it’s timed to come after the wildflowers have set their seed.

    1. My cost/benefit analyses often look a little strange, but I do have fun. It was well worth that second trip; this is the prettiest pink bluebonnet I’ve found.

    1. It really was, Jean. I’ve seen pink bluebonnets before, but never one that was pristine. They’re often a little scraggly, or oddly colored. This one was nearly perfect: at least, to my eye.

    1. Red and reddish orange are the most common paintbrush colors; this was the purest pink I’ve ever found. But hold on to your artist’s hat; I found a few more Paintbrushes that extended the palette a bit.

    1. It seems like I have an easier time spotting them when they’re in a field of solid blue (or red, when white sports show up in fields of Indian paintbrushes). White paintbrushes or bluebonnets can be hard to see when they’re in a field of mixed flowers. These fairly begged to be noticed.

    1. I do, too. I’m not sure if the white variants are becoming more common, or if my eye is better trained, but this year I’ve seen more than usual. The pure pink was a surprise, though. I’ve seen pink bluebonnets before, but never so elegant as this one.

  1. I love the sense of curiosity that shines through in your post. Finagling the lens through the wire, the urge to return at just the right time to see the full glory of pink.

    1. Idle curiosity turns into road trips more and more often. Just as you’ve learned the habits and quirks of your herons, I’ve learned a good bit about some of our wildflowers, including how long it takes them to come into full bloom. I figured that five days would be just about right for this one to “grow up,” and so it was!

    1. Aren’t they? Have you come across your native Paintbrush species (Castilleja coccinea)? It’s one of the bright red ones, and it’s in some of your bordering counties. If you and Dr. M. are out running the country, you might be able to find some. There’s no reason your red ones couldn’t produce a white or pink variant, too!

  2. No one finds fields of blue like you do, Linda! How artistic is it that a pink-orange flower would help to accent the bluebonnets?!!

    1. Nature’s vibrant color combinations are so appealing. When I was a kid, I had those plastic Easter eggs that could be opened and filled with candy. I always was switching the halves around, creating eggs that were purple and yellow, or pink and orange. So many of our fields look like that right now.

    1. The pink came first, and then blue-tinged pink, and then Aggie Maroon. Here’s a great read about Greg Grant and Dr. Jerry Parsons and the creation of Lupinus texensis ‘Texas Maroon.’ I got a chuckle out of this, particularly:

      “At this point we must take note of the amazing strategies and wiles of these little pink bluebonnets. They are outnumbered in the bluebonnet world; hardly anyone notices them. But now they have human kind taking part in spreading their kin around the earth. Lupinus texensis ‘Texas Maroon’ is now a reality. Not only are humans spreading them around the earth but a very unique species of human: Aggies. “

    1. Aren’t they great? It’s interesting that the plant breeders have created varieties like the Aggie maroon bluebonnet, but I still prefer finding some outlier lying out in a field — or, more accurately, standing in a field.

    1. I’m getting better at finding natural oddities; I’ve decided that learning to see is as imporant a skill for a nature photographer as learning where the camera buttons are!

  3. Amazing. Firstly, that you spotted it among the blue field (in all its glory) and secondly, that the light was in your favour and you got a great shot in good focus.

    You’ve got a keen eye for spotting details that’s for sure.

    1. You had a hand in helping me get the pink bluebonnet photos, Vicki. I’ve always remembered your mention of your zoo photos, or at least photos in places where you had to deal with fences. You talked about using one-point focus to eliminate some of the problems, and it worked in this situation. I used zone rather than one-point, but it did the trick.

      I was lucky with the light. Early morning clouds were giving way, but there still were enough around to diffuse the light a bit.

    1. That’s the best kind of bouquet, don’t you think? It certainly would outshine anything currently at the grocery store! The one thing I haven’t seen yet this year is a nice mix of bluebonnets and paintbrush, but I’ve heard some rumors of places where they’re present. We’ll see!

    1. They sure are, but so was another ‘pink’ that I found: a single tall stem of Penstemon cobaea just sticking up alongside the road. It was so tall I couldn’t help noticing it, and at first I didn’t know what it was. I’ve seen other Penstemons, but nothing with such huge flowers. Of course there will be a photo!

  4. Your photographs made me feel guilty. I should be outside getting flower pics! Okay, maybe I’ll wait until it’s not dark.

    Superb images all! I can’t believe you found a pink bloom in that blue ocean! A testament to your powers of observation for sure.

    It’s so neat to find something “different”. I think I’ve heard Gini say that about me ……

    1. To be honest, I’ve found it far easier to spot anomalous white or pink bluebonnets in fields of pure blue flower. In a field of mixed flowers, they can become lost among the other varieties of yellow, white, and pink flowers in bloom. On the other hand, the sheer perfection of these flowers was hard to miss. The Indian Paintbrush was a bit older and fading a bit at the bottom, but the top portion was so lovely. And that pink bluebonnet was so gorgeous I didn’t want to stop looking at it. i’ll not make another trip to record its progression toward seed, though. I want to remember it just this way.

    1. Apart from the delicate pinks of these flowers, their freshness certainly added to their appeal. They’d not yet begun to fade, and no nibbling insects had been feasting on them; they were exemplars of floral beauty in a beautiful setting. That made me happy, too!

    1. It may make some sense of the traditional assignment of pink and blue to girls and boys. On the other hand, my mother’s determination that I should live in a pink world left me less than enthusiastic about the color, until I began finding it in nature, and gained a new appreciation for it.

  5. I must admit that I haven’t seen a pink Indian Paintbrush, but the lupines sometimes turn pink around here. I’ve been following the bluebonnets in Steves blog also, they seem so plentiful in you all’s neck of the woods.

    1. After I started looking at photos of lupines from other parts of the country, I noticed that some were pink. I think there may be cultivars that have been developed to be pink, lavender, and blue as well as the naturally occurring ones. We certainly are awash in flowers this year. My next post will move away from bluebonnet fields to show some of the other beauties.

    1. As so often happens, seeing one wildflower in isolation reveals details that are easy to miss when looking at a whole field. When that flower’s an entirely unexpected color, it seems to demand extra attention!

  6. Pink Bluebonnets??? Who knew? Thank you for showing them to me because I’ve never heard of such. Why, even the name says “blue,” doesn’t it?!?

    1. Every year, there are a few columns and articles that make the point that whether the flowers are pink or white, they’re still ‘bluebonnets,’ not ‘pinkbonnets’ or ‘whitebonnets.’ It’s like tulips. They can be red, white, or yellow, but they’re all tulips. I suppose the difference is that with tulips, the color isn’t part of the name.

  7. I’m reminded of the gorgeous yellow lupines I found along the PCT in the Trinity Alps, Linda. It’s always fun when a flower pulls a fast one on you. As a kid, I took over the family’s sweet pea garden because I could never get enough of the bright colors. Gorgeous photo.

    1. I remember you mentioning those lupines in the past. If you like yellow, just you wait until I post photos of some Indian paintbrush I found. Talk about flowers pulling a fast one! Believe it or not, I had to look up sweet peas. Since they’re not native, and since I don’t remember them from my family’s gardens, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them. They certainly are beautiful, and their membership in the pea family’s unmistakable.

      1. I’ll look forward to your showy paintbrush, Linda. Somewhere I have a photo of young Curt in his sweet pea patch with an ever-present dog. Or maybe it’s lost. I haven’t seen it in a long time.

    1. Most of the time, the little oddities I come across are older, and either fading from the natural aging process or damaged by insects that feed on the petals and such. Finding such a pristine pink bluebonnet was different because of its perfection as well as it’s color, and I spent a good bit of time with it, just looking at that loveliness.

  8. The theme reminded me of a story my folks told me, about one of their first dates in NYC. I think they were walking in Central Park and my mom suggested they go to one of her favorite ice cream parlors, Rumpelmayer’s. My father described it as an old-fashioned froufrou place and the whole place was done in pink, like a fancy wedding cake. The whole time they were having their ice cream and hot chocolate, he was bringing up questions about colors, trying to assess how much my mother liked pink, which he hates, and whether she was likely to some day want a house done in pink. I don’t think he’d have left town over it, but he was pretty worried until she told him it was very pretty for an ice cream parlor but not a house.

    1. That’s an absolutely charming tale. Apart from the interaction between your parents, there’s that name: Rumpelmayer’s. Looking it up, it took about ten seconds to understand it wasn’t your neighborhood Baskin-Robbins; I found innumerable articles about it, including this one. It didn’t just provide ‘pink,’ it had pink Egyptian-like mosaics and teddy bears for the customers to hold. It also had a good number of actors and actresses who’d roll in after their Broadway show closed; great fun all around. It would have been fun to visit, as much for the environment as for the ice cream, but like your father, I wouldn’t have wanted to live there.

    1. It was three hours each way, but of course there were other delights to see along the way. As a matter of fact, it was interesting to see which flowers already had faded away, and which new ones had come into bloom. Five days in wildflower time can bring a lot of changes.

    1. They are impressive — all of them. In my next post, I’m going to show some of the variety that also is part of our spring show. The bluebonnets are glorious, but they’re not the only attraction along the roads and in the fields. The one time I experience what’s today called FOMO — fear of missing out — is when the spring flowers bloom. Before long, they’ll be gone, and even though others will replace them, there’s nothing like this first flush of color.

      1. I can understand the FOMO (although this is the first time I’ve come across it as a thing), especially when you get displays like the bluebonnets. I would be out there every day checking on them!

  9. What luck that not only were you able to find the same stem again but it was in prime condition for a lovely photographic portrait. The wild lupines I see in Maine often have a few pink exceptions to the rule but that appears more common than with your Bluebonnets. If you look closely on the left you’ll see a few pink ones.

    1. That’s really a great image of your Lupines. It makes sense that all of the species would present that kind of color change, although I see far more white bluebonnets than pink. This was such a gorgeous one. I mentioned to a couple of other people that it actually was far easier to see in that field of blue than it would have been if it were tucked into mixed flowers. Finding it the second time was no problem at all. I could direct you to it tomorrow.: behind the third fencepost to the east of the windmill pasture!

  10. The Indian paintbrush and the bluebonnet are both utterly beautiful and feel so fresh and full of life. Makes me look forward even more to spring getting properly underway here and life returning…

    1. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I found these pristine flowers. Granted, the Indian paintbrush already had lost a few lower blooms, but the top half was perfect. As for the bluebonnet, it was perfect as perfect could be: a result of finding a ‘baby’ flower.

    1. Exactly. This pink bluebonnet might be even better than the single white bluebonnet I found in an enormous field of blue. That one was amusing — this one was just pretty.

  11. I find those color variations fascinating, whether they’re a normal thing or a less common mutation. I think we’d spoken in the past about white bluebells and similar variations. I love that bit of pink amongst the blue. Good eye finding that.

    1. It does seem that blue and pink flowers are most likely to produce white sports, but it was fun to find the bluebonnets producing pink. Even better were the Indian paintbrush I found that I’ve not yet posted; although typically red or orange, I found a patch of yellow ones. The natural world’s filled with surprises, that’s for sure.

      As for spotting this pink bluebonnet, it was far easier in a field of blue than it would have been in mixed flowers. I’ve sometimes found white bluebonnets in mixed fields, but when they’re in the company of other white, yellow, and pink flowers, they can be hard to pick out. This one was like an enthusiastic second grader, waving its blooms and yelling, “Here! Look at me!”

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