They Live: The Saga of the Maroon Bluebonnet Continues

The Saga of the Maroon Bluebonnet Continues

Editor’s Note: UT has issued a statement on the bluebonnet chronicles, indicating that the university has no official plans to remove the maroon bluebonnet from campus. That statement can be read here.

Nature was supposed to dispose of the maroon bluebonnet, but Longhorns are still waiting.

The maroon bluebonnets spotted last week near the UT Tower haven’t disappeared, in fact, they have spread. According to Markus Hogue, Program Coordinator for Irrigation and Water Conservation at UT, they should be removed by next week at the latest.

Daphne Richards, BS ’94, doesn’t agree with that plan. Richards, a horticulturist at Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension, and a  graduate of both UT and A&M, feels unbiased in her opinion that the flowers should remain on campus, regardless of the color.

“It’s very silly of the campus to remove them,” Richards says. “I think it would have been better to embrace them, showing maturity and a recognition of beauty. Having degrees from both fine institutions, I feel that I can say that.”

Richards also takes umbrage with the way the media has presented the maroon bluebonnet, as something horticulturists at Texas A&M have genetically modified or created.

“‘Created’ is not the verb I would choose,” Richards says. “Our specialists collected seed from naturally occurring maroon-flowered plants and selectively bred for this trait, the same way that dog breeders might select for different qualities, such as coat color and length.”

As we reported earlier, mercenary Texas A&M students were believed to be behind the color-mingling. However, current and former Aggie staffers have a different explanation now that the recessive-gene maroon bluebonnets haven’t receded, and the explanation is much simpler, and much more boring. They claim the maroon bluebonnet exists on the Forty Acres most likely because of faulty distribution by the manufacturer.

Dr. Jerry Parsons, one of two A&M horticulturists involved with isolating the maroon bluebonnet in the wild, explained it as such.

“They are not a prank but rather a seed mix-up during packaging by the producer,” Parsons told the Daily Texan.

Richards agrees with this notion, which absolves Aggie pranksters of any foul play, and wraps this all up in a neat little package.

“I quickly came to the same conclusion as Dr. Parsons: A mix-up at the distributor is a more likely the cause,” Richards says.

For his part, Hogue still believes that the non-blue bluebonnets were planted in a calculated move.

“Dr. Parsons did say that the blue is the dominant color and should take over,” Hogue says. “Which leads me to believe even more that someone is seeding them each year.”

Have no fear, bluebonnet purists. Even if nature doesn’t exterminate the maroon bluebonnet, there’s an action plan to eradicate the rogue flowers from campus moving forward.

“Next year, they will be pulled as soon as we see any maroon color,” Hogue says.

For proponents of the bluebonnet being blue, know that researchers at A&M haven’t only been working on the maroon bluebonnet. They’ve also had a hand in breeding a more traditional bluebonnet, which they’ve named for a Texas icon.

“Our specialists were also involved in selectively breeding for the deeper, darker blue flower color of the newest cultivar released in late 2013, which we named for our fabulous former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson,” Richards says. “It’s called the ‘Lady Bird Johnson Royal Blue’ bluebonnet.”

That’s a bluebonnet any Texan can get behind.

Photo by Anna Donlan.


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