Hi. I’m a Texas Bluebonnet, otherwise known as Lupinus texensis. I’m a part of the Fabaceae Family (Pea Family), the Faboideae Subfamily, and the Genisteae Tribe. I’m one of 5 Bluebonnet species in Texas, but I’m the most popular. I’m the one that causes people to pull over to the side of the road and get their pictures taken with me. A veritable superstar! My fans adore me. By 1901 I became so popular that I was designated the state flower in that year. Well, actually it was an ongoing battle between me and Lupinus subcarnosus. It wasn’t until 1971 that we were forced to share the spotlight with the other Bluebonnet species.
Contrary to our name, bluebonnets are not always blue. Some are pink, maroon or white. Go figure.
Here I am in the development stage prior to spring. I have palmately compound leaves, because I have 5 leaflets (more than 2) that radiate out from a single point. Like the “palm” of a hand that is outstretched…palmate.
Here I am as a newly budding flower. It is March 9 and I’m ready to show my stuff.
Wait for it….
Ah, out of the starting gate.
But wait, I’m just getting started, there’s more…
I’m still a youngster here, but already I’ve been pollinated a bit. That’s why I get the reddish coloration on some of my flowers. The flowers are typical pea-shaped flowers. Anytime you see a plant with this shape, having a ‘banner, wings and keel’, you know you are face-to-face with a pea.
Here I am from a bird’s-eye view
My leaves are lovely after a rain. They look like they have had beautiful diamonds deposited within them. On a side note, have you noticed I’m a bit hairy?
Here I am standing around with a friend of mine. We’re about middle-aged here. We’ve had our minglings with bees and butterflies. We’ve gotten a bit purplish around the middle. Pretty soon we’ll be going to seed.
A group picture of the clan
I’m going to seed now. Those lower flowers that had been pollinated have made the transformation. The uppers will soon follow. The pod is another sign that I’m from the pea family (some say bean family). Not everybody in the pea family has fuzzy pods like mine, but some do.
Here there’s only a couple flowers left and all the rest is seed pods. In this picture I’m standing next to my neighbor, the California Bur Clover. This cat is not just a neighbor, but a relative too. Although he comes from the Pea family, he belongs to the Clover subfamily. We have the same kind of flowers though, and kinda similar leaves. He’s got palmate leaves too.
Question: Am I edible?
I’m not entirely sure. Some experts talk about all lupines as if they are toxic. Cattle and sheep have gotten sick and or died from eating too much of us. The authors of “Lone Star Wildflowers: A Guide To Texas Flowering Plants”, LaShara Nieland and Willa Finley, say that the Bluebonnet lupines are considered “sweet” (the alkaloid content is low) and therefore they are a desirable forage plant. The authors also state how Native Americans used the plant medicinally.
According to author of “Botany in a Day”, Thomas Elpel, it’s difficult to poison yourself with members of the Pea family, but that it’s possible if you eat large amounts of any pea plant for too many successive meals. Apparently, there is not a danger in consuming a small amount. And again, according to the authors of “Lone Star Wildflowers” bluebonnets are sweet and therefore contain the alkaloids of concern in smaller amounts, therefore are safer to eat.
Overall, it’s best to do as much research as you can before trying to eat any plant. Be sure you have identified a plant beyond any doubt, that you have studied it and watched it grow, observed all of its features, identified it by the pictures and descriptions of multiple experts, and are to the point where you know exactly what you are dealing with.
Well, okay friends, I will take my leave for now. I hope you have enjoyed my pictures and my profile. I will see you again next season!
Lone Star Wildflowers: A Guide To Texas Flowering Plants, by LaShara Nieland and Willa Finley
Thomas J. Elpel, author of “Botany in a Day”
Wildflowers of Texas by Geyata Ajilvsgi