The Bluebonnet Became the State Flower of Texas 117 Years Ago Today
Buffalo Clover. Lupine. Wolf flower. El conejo.
Along with the Lone Star, the Alamo, and the Gonzales cannon, the bluebonnet stands as a symbol of the beauty and wild spirit of Texas. On March 7, 1901, the 27th Texas Legislature adopted the bluebonnet as the state's official flower, and families have been posing for photos in patches of them ever since.
It's difficult to imagine any other flower representing what we love most about our state, but it almost happened.
In Legends & Lore of Texas Wildflowers, Elizabeth Silverthorne of Salado writes that the bluebonnet faced stiff competition from the open cotton boll and the blossom of the prickly pear cactus.
According to Silverthorne:
"In 1901 when a resolution proposed by the Colonial Dames of Texas to adopt the bluebonnet as the state flower was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives, a business leader suggested that the open cotton boll, "the white flower of commerce," be adopted instead. Jack Garner, future vice president of the United States, rose to support with glowing praise the prickly pear, a prominent inhabitant of the area near his Uvalde home. The Dames marshaled their forces to lobby the representatives, and as a visual aid they brought into the House a bluebonnet picture painted by Miss Mode Walker of Austin. The opposition, including "Cactus Jack", was overwhelmed, and the bluebonnet won the day."
However, Silverthorne points out, the matter still wasn't settled. The bluebonnet named in the resolution was Lupinus subcarnosus, which, while pretty, wasn't considered by many to be the most attractive of the six known species in the state. So, in 1971, lawmakers passed a new resolution that added Lupinus texensis (the now-iconic Texas Bluebonnet), as well as "any other variety of Bluebonnet not heretofore recorded."
So, technically, Texas has six state flowers.
In her book, Silverthorne presents some fantastic legends about the origin of bluebonnets, but my favorite has to be the idea that Native Americans gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds fought in a titanic battle, shaking loose pieces of the sky that fell to the earth and blossomed.
Legends & Lore of Texas Wildflowers is a wonderful read. I found my copy on the local author shelf at Belton's McWha Book Store about two years ago. The book, along with more of Silverthorne's work, is also available online.