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A to Z Texas: Bluebonnets & Bastard Cabbage

Field of Bastard Cabbage in Texas (photo by Tui Snider)
Field of Bastard Cabbage in Texas (photo by Tui Snider)

Wildflowers are Big in Texas

Each year, spring slams into Texas with all the subtlety of a meteor, and bright swathes of red, blue, purple and yellow wildflowers bloom alongside the highways.

Bluebonnets are the Texas state flower

While those living elsewhere are often oblivious to their state’s flower, it’s a rare Texan who does not know that the Bluebonnet is the Lone Star State’s official blossom. In fact, it’s become a Texan tradition to dress in your Sunday best, park along the shoulder of a road, and take photos of your loved ones surrounded by wildflowers.

Bluebonnets are the Texas State Flower (photo by Tui Snider)
Bluebonnets are the Texas State Flower (photo by Tui Snider)

Lady Bird’s Bill

Lady Bird Johnson’s motto, “where flowers bloom, so does hope,” is very apparent here in Texas. In fact, the Highway Beautification Act of 1965 was nicknamed “Lady Bird’s Bill.”

What, at the time, was meant as a snarky jab at her influence over the president, has morphed into respect for her appreciation of nature. To this day, travelers have her to thank for the colorful flowers flanking Texan roadsides each spring.

Bluebonnets in north Texas (photo by Tui Snider)
Bluebonnets in north Texas (photo by Tui Snider)

Will the Real Bluebonnet Please Stand Up?

Some confusion arises, however, over which exact flower is the official Texan bluebonnet. Should one, when pressed for particulars, say Lupinus subcarnosus, or should one go with the more regional sounding Lupinus texensis?

As it turns out, the Texan legislature declared 5 different members of the lupine family to be its official state flower.

How’s that for diplomacy?


Bastard Cabbage chokes out Texas Bluebonnets (photo by Tui Snider)
Bastard Cabbage chokes out Texas Bluebonnets (photo by Tui Snider)

Why is Bastard Cabbage the Bluebonnet’s Enemy?

Sadly, Texans are seeing less and less of their beloved bluebonnets each spring because an invasive weed, called Rapistrum rugosum, is sweeping across the state.

This pretty yellow flower, known informally as Bastard Cabbage germinates early, then chokes out other flowers such as Indian Paintbrush and bluebonnets.

According to this 2012 news story, Bluebonnet Killer Grows Free, Bastard Cabbage will soon be in north Texas. I hate to say it, but it is already here. I’ve been seeing huge splashes of it all along Jacksboro Highway this week. Oh well!

Wildflower Identification

A good way to learn the names of all sorts of flowers is to visit the Dallas Arboretum. Their lush gardens are open daily and plants are clearly labeled so you can find out what they are called.  (If it rains during your visit, be sure to request a rain check, so you may return for a free visit during better weather.)


Bluebonnets are a Texas tradition (photo by Tui Snider)
Bluebonnets are a Texas tradition (photo by Tui Snider)

Best Bluebonnet Sightings

To get the full effect of Texan wildflowers, however, you really need to go for a drive. Since even the best GPS can’t tell you where the blooms are, check out Wildflower Havento find out and plan your jaunt for optimal viewing.

Big sneezes in Texas?

Of course, where flowers bloom, allergy medicine sales also soar. While I’m one of the lucky ones who isn’t sneezing, the pollen count in the Dallas – Fort Worth area of Texas is often the highest in the nation. (You can easily check out the pollen count where you live by doing a search with your ZIP Code over at

A to Z blogging challenge

This was my post for the letter B of the A to Z blogging challenge. Tune in tomorrow to see what the letter C will bring.

In the meantime, click on this link to find out what other A to Z blogging challenge posts have to say.

Tui Snider
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Published inTravel Photo Essays


  1. One of things my MIL asked me to bring back from Texas was a flower that wasn’t known in Italy so, I brought her a pack of Bluebonnet seeds. I think I’ll have my parents send me some to plant next year!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Sonia,

      What a great idea! It will be a yearly reminder of Texas for you.


  2. Yve Yve

    Making me miss Texas. And so ashamed for not knowing about Bastard Cabbage! Sounds like something I could use in a poem. Thanks for the nostalgia and inspiration :)

  3. It’s too bad we have no bluebonnets where we live. They look absolutely beautiful. My Dad loves flowers and I am sure he would love to have some blue bonnets for his small garden. Beautiful pictures by the way :)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Thank you, Corinne!

      It’s getting prettier by the day around here.


  4. I love flowers and travel so this is a good combination. Look forward to learning more about Texas.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Thanks for dropping by, Paulen! Happy A to Z-ing to you. :) ~Tui

  5. I had no idea bastard cabbage was a thing, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen those yellow blooms around San Antonio. I have seen a lot of Bluebonnets though, everyone says it’s a bad year, but I havend had a springtime in Texas in about 5 years, so it seems really pretty to me!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Charlie,

      Ah – so you are down in the San Antonio area. I forgot to ask you earlier!

      This is my 4th spring in Texas, but even I have noticed a decrease in the amount of Bluebonnets.


  6. Maryann Maryann

    Love the blue bonnets. I did not know about that bastard cabbage, but I have wondered why the blue bonnets have not been blooming in the numbers they used to. I thought it was because of the drought.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Maryann,

      Yes, from what I’ve read, the drought really helped the Bastard Cabbage take over. Where in Texas are you located?

      Thank you for commenting!

  7. Great post for the letter B. I actually have a post card in my collection of Texas Bluebonnets sent to my relatives in 1949! Clearly it’s been a major part of Texas pride for a long time. I didn’t post my bluebonnet post card for the letter “B” today, but it’ll make it up onto my blog eventually :)

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Jen,

      1949, eh? Cool! Yeah, you could always use that postcard under W for wildflower, if you wanted. Let me know if you do post it!


  8. Some beautiful photos of this flower! I love the comment in your ABOUT section “believes that even home is a travel destination” – I completely agree!!

    Looking forward to reading more of your A to Z posts,

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Kellie,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. Yes – I truly feel that even home is a travel destination. Every place is exotic and fascinating in its own way.

      Happy A to Z to you! :)


  9. They are a very beautiful flower. California poppy is my home state flower and the Cherokee Rose is the state flower for Georgia where I am living now. Yes I knew about the poppy but I had to look up the Georgia state flower. Sad about the Bastard Cabbage flower/weed. Good job continuing the A to Z challenge!

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Morgan,

      I’ve never heard of the Cherokee Rose. I’ll have to look that up. Sounds lovely!

      Happy A to Z to ya. I wonder what sort of poem you will have for us today?


  10. kim McKibben kim McKibben

    I am a master anaturalist with the Elm Fork Master Naturalist out of Denton county. It is here. I have been very aware of the cabbage along the frontage roads in Lewisville between FM 407 and main street.
    Do you think I will be arrested if I just spend some time on the frontage roads cutting it down?

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for stopping by. Man, I hear you on mowing down Bastard Cabbage. I’ve been daydreaming about doing the same as I drive to and from work over here near Fort Worth!


  11. Gorgeous photography. Everybody loves our bluebonnets!
    You’re the winner of the prize on my blog today, and I’ve sent you an email.

    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Carol,

      Thanks again for the prize. I look forward to reading your book SOLOMON’S COMPASS on my hubby’s Kindle!

      Happy A to Z to ya!


    • mentalmosaic mentalmosaic

      Hi Misha,

      Bluebonnets certainly are pretty. These photos don’t do them justice!


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