While individual reddish-pink or white bluebonnets can be found in nature, a red, white, and blue color scheme is typical for the state flower of Texas.
The top blue petal, known as the ‘banner,’ provides a way for the plant to communicate with bees seeking nectar. If the lower part of the banner is white, bees know that nectar still is available. Once a flower is fertilized, it stops producing nectar and the lower part of the banner changes to red. Since bees don’t see that color, they direct their attention to younger flowers still filled with sweetness.
Older flowers aren’t ignored, of course. Those with red markings still have plenty of pollen for bees to gather, packing it on their hind legs in special pollen ‘baskets.’ Mixed with honey, the pollen will nourish developing larvae.
For the bees, red, white, and blue are practical rather than patriotic, but the combined colors of this Texas flower are a fitting reminder of our nation’s flag and what it stands for. This year’s bluebonnets may be gone, but our founding and our history remain, and are worthy of celebration.