UT Bluebonnet Update: The Flowers are Safe
Over the last several days, wildflower lovers in Texas have been interested to learn about some maroon-colored bluebonnets that mysteriously appeared in gardens at The University of Texas at Austin. The bluebonnets grew from seed selectively bred at Texas A&M University, leading to speculation they were planted as a prank, though there is no evidence to support this.
The university would like to clarify that contrary to some reports, the bluebonnets are safe. UT Austin has no immediate or official plans to pull up the Aggie-colored wildflowers.
Mark Simmons, director of the Ecosystem Design Group at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at UT Austin, says the flowers, which were bred from a naturally occurring variant of bluebonnets, merit the same consideration as any other wildflower appearing on the UT Austin campus.
Simmons’ group has been in the process of completing a horticultural plan within the overall campus master plan for the university.
"We are recommending that bluebonnets in general be used more extensively across campus," said Simmons, who praised the wildflower for its resilience, drought-tolerance and ability to crowd out weeds.
Regarding color, Simmons points out that bluebonnets have many natural variants, including maroon, pink and pale blue, but the vibrant blue color is dominant genetically. As a result, seeds from this year’s maroon bluebonnets are highly likely to cross-pollinate and over time yield seeds that produce vibrant blue flowers.
Regardless of color, Simmons points out, bluebonnets are the state flower of Texas, and “they’re also very attractive at this time of year.”
"I myself am a transplant from College Station," said Simmons, who earned his Ph.D. in rangeland ecology and management at Texas A&M, "so I understand some of the sensitivities around these maroon visitors."
UT Austin President Bill Powers had a positive take on the flowers’ presence.
"We don’t know for sure where they came from," Powers told KUT Radio earlier this week. “If it’s the work of some Aggies, hats off to them, it’s kind of clever. You know anyone wearing maroon would love to wake up and be in a better place.”
[Photos: Anna Donlan/The Alcalde]