In 1901, the Texas legislature proclaimed the bluebonnet, Lupinus subcarnosus, as the official state flower, edging out the cotton ball and prickly pear cactus after much heated debate. In 1971, the state amended the original ruling to include “any other variety of bluebonnet not heretofore recorded.” Today, five different species of bluebonnets are recognized, one of which is the Big Bend Bluebonnet, known to scholars as Lupinus havardii.
Every few years, the Big Bend region receives enough rain through autumn and winter to help the bluebonnet seeds germinate, and in rare years, bluebonnets rosettes sprout in prolific numbers. Still, spring’s cooler temperatures and adequate rains are necessary to finish the cycle and allow the rosettes to reach maturity and put forth a bloom.
In Big Bend National Park, conditions on the Chihuahuan Desert floor surrounding the Chisos Mountains are especially harsh, but the bluebonnet has adapted to survive. The seeds from fading plants find their way into crevices and between rocks and stay dormant for years. But when the fall and winter rains arrive and temperatures are conducive, the desert surrounding the Chisos Mountains can put on quite a show. Blooms rise from the orange and red rock, some plants growing up to three feet tall. While they don’t grow as densely as those bluebonnets found in the Texas Hill Country, the plants can still be bunched together enough to look as though they are trickling down the sides of shallow slopes and washes.
In this gallery, I offer bluebonnet images and photographs taken in and around Big Bend National Park and Brewster County. Some of my favorite areas are East River Road, West River Road, and the area around the iconic Cerro Castellan. Bluebonnets seem to love these areas, and sunrises and sunset there can be magical. I love the contrast of a patch of bluebonnets to a blue sky with nice white clouds, or the blue petals beneath a colorful sunrise or sunset. I also enjoy the red rocks that fill the desert and bring out the shades of bluebonnets throughout the cool spring days. Many miles and hours have gone into finding these locations, including some treks well off the beaten path where I imaging few have gone to find bluebonnets. I hope you enjoy this small collection of bluebonnets from Big Bend. If you have any questions about these images as files or prints, please do not hesitate to contact me.