The Texas bluebonnet used to mean Texas pride, but on the UT-Austin campus, it now means war. Maroon bluebonnets have sprung up on the Forty Acres—and some think pranksters from Texas A&M are behind it.
Markus Hogue, Program Coordinator for Irrigation and Water Conservation at UT, believes the appearance of the maroon bluebonnets is too coincidental to be an accident, as the maroon bluebonnet was originally spotted in nature by A&M horticulturists, isolated, and then released back into nature.
“Personally, I feel it is [intentional]. A&M created these,” Hogue says. “There’s the possibility they were planted by staff, but I doubt that aspect. The coincidence that the maroon bluebonnets are located at the Tower beds seems to fit the rumor that Aggies put the seeds out.”
Daphne Richards, BS ’94, agrees with Hogue. Richards, a horticulturist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has seen maroon bluebonnets in Central Texas, but notes the rarity, as they are only usually planted in landscapes, and by people with access to the seeds.
“I don’t want to speak ill, but it would be uncommon for such a large stand all in one place to pop up without any help,” Richards said. “I’m surprised no one has taken credit yet.”
Further, the mighty Texas bluebonnet’s usual blue hue is the dominant color, meaning that maroon bluebonnets need to couple with other maroon bluebonnets to spread.
“In nature, the maroon, pink, and white in bluebonnets are recessive genes,” Richards said. “If maroon crosses with blue, blue wins.”
Richards also confirmed that this could only be done by seeding, and only during football season, as these maroon bluebonnets that are appearing now would have been planted in the fall.
The real problem—beyond the modification of our state flower—is that the maroon bluebonnet is spreading. If this trend continues, the entire bluebonnet garden will be replanted, according to Hogue.
“They will be removed if they start sprouting up,” said Hogue. “[We’ve] mentioned collecting the seeds.”
Horticulturists at the university may not have to take that step, though, according to Richards.
“Since the non-blue colors are recessive, this ‘situation’ will likely sort itself out almost entirely back to blue, before next season. Unless of course, the prankster returns,” she said. “After that, you’d likely see maroon flowers in the stand of plants, but not as many, and not as often.”
Whatever happens, the blooming rivalry will have to replace the defunct Texas–Texas A&M football rivalry, which ended in 2011, though unfortunately there isn’t a burnt-orange bluebonnet—yet.
Photos by Anna Donlan.