Staying Out of Trouble This Spring

Bluebonnet season is coming: how to pick our state flower without running afoul of the law

By John Lomax March 14, 2013 Published in the April 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine


Last year, as fanatical devotees of the bluebonnet will recall (the flower, not the margarine), a warm, wet winter coaxed the plants to flower well before Valentine’s Day, a blessing and a boon to Casanovas on a budget. Which coaxed meonto a burned-out railway bridge over White Oak Bayou, where I harvested a prime bouquet of preemie Lupinus texensis for the missus.  

“Isn’t that against the law?” sniffed a disapproving colleague. Aware of the shameful illegality that is picking lupines, I explained that I’d been a fool for love. Also that I was a loner, Dottie, a rebel, as Pee-Wee Herman once put it. Also that I was broke.

None of this grandstanding was necessary, as it turns out.  Picking bluebonnets is not against the law, not even a little bit. Nevertheless, so ingrained is the myth to the contrary, the Texas Department of Public Safety (which receives hundreds of bluebonnet queries each year) maintains a web page devoted to its debunking. “There is no law against picking our State Flower,” it reads, although roadside Romeos are requested not to “dig up clumps of them,” which seems reasonable enough, and not to “drive your vehicle into the midst of them,” which seems beyond reasonable. 

Not that blossom appreciation is completely risk-free. No matter how entrancing the bluebonnet patch, no matter how incomplete your “Springtime in Texas” Facebook album might look without a shot of the kids frolicking among them, “there are laws against criminal trespass,” the DPS reminds us, “so make sure you’re not on private property.”

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Then there are the hazards posed by fellow aficionados, especially those for whom photographing a calendar-ready field-o’-flowers involves driving 25 mph on State Highway 6. (Just park on the shoulder, dammit, and for God’s sake “don’t walk or run across lanes of traffic to get to the flowers.” She can’t love you if you’re dead.)

And though the DPS might not mind your behavior, the same cannot necessarily be said for Mother Nature, who has been known to impose her own restrictions on floral plunder. We’re talking, of course, about the large phalanx of critter cops in her service. As the DPS, in a poetic moment, puts it, “snakes and fire ants also could put more blue in your day than you bargained for.”

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