Maybe it’s not about Texans making up their minds per se, as much as it’s about Texans willing to defend those symbols — in this case, the state flower — they believe represent the Texas psyche. Remember the Alamo? Remember the line drawn in the dirt? It was that kind of an event — at least in the minds of Texans — except no one got hurt.
According to one version of the story, it was in the early months of 1901 that a little group of ladies from the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Texas descended upon the Texas Congress with a painting of wildflowers tucked beneath their arms. Their goal was to have the bluebonnet adopted as the official state flower of Texas. When they had the attention of the legislature, they pulled out their pièce de résistance, a landscape painting of Lupinus subcarnosus bluebonnets. That did the trick. The bluebonnet had won the legislators’ hearts and on March 7, 1901, the 27th Texas Legislature adopted the bluebonnet, specifically Lupinus subcarnosus, as the official Texas state flower.
The line was drawn in the dirt. And so began the dispute that would become known as “The Bluebonnet War.”
The problem was the chosen state flower, Lupinus subcarnosus, is the daintier and less showy cousin of the flower most Texans consider the Texas bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis. This cousin typically known as the Sandyland bluebonnet is found in the sandy soils of southern Central Texas to the northern parts of Hidalgo County in the Rio Grande valley. Standing between 6 to 12 inches and more royal-blue in color, Lupinus subcarnosus is not the bluebonnet that inspires countless artists and photographers. While both are native to Texas, Lupinus texensisis considered the more impressive of the bluebonnets.
As all Texans know, being associated with words such as dainty and unimpressive just doesn’t sit right with us.
Anyone remember the license plate controversy of 1989? The Texas DMV had designed a new license plate and obviously someone who hadn’t grown up in Texas was put in charge of creating a catchy license plate slogan. The best he or she could do was “The Friendship State.” Now we all know the word Texas means “friends” but don’t go all mamsy pamsy on us and start calling us “The Friendship State.” That don’t sit right. Texans weren’t going to stand for it and we didn’t. The controversy went on for some time and fortunately someone got a clue and suggested the phrase “The Lone Star State.” Texans concurred and the slogan has been part of Texas license plates since 1992.
Unfortunately, the state flower controversy didn’t extinguish itself that quickly. The debate continued to simmer in the Texas Legislature for 70 years. The line was drawn — the Colonial Dames on one side vying for Lupinus subcarnosus and every other Texan on the other side rooting for Lupinus texensis. In a stroke of brilliance and in the spirit of true compromise — and in the hopes no one would be offended — on March 8, 1971, the 62nd Texas Legislature considered Lupinus texensis “… the most beautiful species of bluebonnet …” and resolved that it “… and any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded by recognized along with the Lupinus subcarnosus as the official state flower of the State of Texas.”
And with that resolution, Texas adopted five state flowers.
Five state flowers? What? Yes, five state flowers. You see when the 62nd legislature wrote their resolution they were politically astute enough to include the phrase “… and any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded … .” They wanted to thwart any future attempts to stir up controversy regarding the selection of the official state flower. And with a stroke of their pens they put the war to rest.
Now it’s not known through the historical record whether or not the legislators were aware that three other species of bluebonnet existed in Texas other than Lupinus subcarnosus and Lupinus texensis. They are Lupinus Havardii, also known as the Big Bend bluebonnet, Lupinus concinnus, known as annual lupine and typically found in the Trans-Pecos region, and Lupinus plattensis, also known as the dunes or plains bluebonnet and is found in the sandy dunes of the Texas panhandle.
So before the ink had begun to dry on their resolution of 1971, the state of Texas became the only state in the union to adopt five flowers as its official state flower!