Lady Birds and Bluebonnets               <--Prev : Next-->

Here we are sitting safely in Texas thinking longingly of home !!

Well not quite longingly but still thinking with compassion of you guys in the bread and fuel queues.

I will not wax eloquent on the availability of bread and "gas" in Texas just in case I get hung, drawn and quartered when I get home, but I would like to dwell on one lovely similarity between Zimbabwe and Texas.

The wildflowers for example are magnificent in both countries.

Last month we went down the Beitbridge Road, and interspersed amongst the dead donkeys, the car carnage and the ETs without fuel, were the most incredible yellow wild flowers. I have yet to establish exactly what they were called, but there were fields of them, masses of them, miles of them, brilliant vivid yellow acres of beauty.

In Texas it is spring. It is beautiful. Texas has great extremes climate wise, snow in Winter, temperatures of high forties in summer, and Spring is beautiful with thanks to Lady Bird Johnson. Now Lady Bird as you may remember was wife of President Lyndon Johnson who ruled America in the seventies, and as Lady Bird is a native Texan, one of her passions was to festoon the whole state of Texas with Bluebonnets.

The Bluebonnet is the Texan national flower. The Bluebonnet is exquisite, brilliant "Margaret Thatcher" Blue with specks of snow white. (I say Margaret Thatcher blue because the Bluebonnet type of blue is absolutely the the best colour to wear on Telly and Margaret Thatcher loved that particular blue !!)

Named for its color and, it is said, the resemblance of its petal to a woman's sunbonnet, It blooms in the early spring and can be readily found in fields and along the roadsides throughout central and south Texas. Scientifically named Lupinus texensis , the bluebonnet is also called buffalo clover, wolf flower, and (by the Mexicans) el conejo. It was adopted as the official state flower by the Texas Legislature in 1901.

Every state has an official flower. But Texas’ bluebonnet is more than a state flower; it’s an institution. It’s not only the state flower but also a kind of floral trademark almost as well known to outsiders as cowboy boots and the Stetson hat.

The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England and the tulip to Holland.”

Bluebonnets are in fact a “Texas thang.”

Each year for the past forty-seven years, the North Texas town of Ennis has hosted a Bluebonnet Trails Festival. An estimated 100,000 people now converge on Ennis’ forty miles of mapped trails in April.

Now apparently LadyBird Johnson made it her "thang" to ensure that every conceivable piece of Texan roadside verge was covered in Bluebonnets in Spring, and this she has achieved to all intents and purposes. Every field, every verge, every highway, every freeway is festooned with beautiful bluebonnets.

(Here I have visions of LadyBird driving along the Texas Highways in her bullet proof limmo with her gloved hand throwing copious quantities of Bluebonnet seed out of the window )

Blooming along with the bluebonnets are Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket and coreopsis.

As the state flower of Texas, bluebonnets have an interesting history. Texas actually has five state flowers. They are all bluebonnets. Here is how it happened.

In the spring of 1901, the Texas Legislature got down to the serious business of selecting its official state flower. The ensuing floor debate was hot and heavy. One state legislator spoke emotionally in favor of the cotton boll since cotton was king in Texas in those days.

Another, a young man from Uvalde, extolled the virtues of the cactus so eloquently, noting the hardy durability of the plant and the orchid-like beauty of its flowers, that he earned the nickname of "Cactus Jack" which stuck with him for the rest of his life. He was John Nance Garner, and later became vice president of the United States under Franklin D. Roosevelt. However the Bluebonnet won hands down in the end.

Of course First Ladies being First Ladies, Barbara Bush is also a Texan so they have introduced a new type of Bluebonnet (Pink perhaps ?) and this is now being released as 'Barbara's Bush'.

Seed collected from 'Barbara Bush' will remain pure if plantings are isolated from other bluebonnets.