Hills and highways are alive with wildflowers in the Spring is a yearly rite of the season, especially in Texas. The seas of color along our roadways vary every year. Bluebonnets signal Spring has arrived.
April has done an outstanding job this year painting the roadsides in the blues, reds, yellows, and pinks with bluebonnets, primroses, Indian paintbrush, and buttercups. Bluebonnets are a particularly gorgeous deep blue this year thanks to the winter’s awful blizzard and freeze.
We can thank two women for the beauty we enjoy.
The origin of bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, involves a young Indian girl named She-Who-Is-Lonely. It’s a familiar tale for most Texans.
She-Who-Is-Lonely lived when Indians roamed Texas. According to legend the weather was not kind to the natives. Winters were harsh, Spring brought catastrophic flooding, followed by a summer drought. Food was scarce. The tribe appealed to the Great Spirit for help. She-Who-Is-Lonely overheard the Great Spirit tell them selfishness had brought on their plight. She took matters into her own hands.
She offered her most prized possession to the Great Spirit, burning her beloved doll in a fire. Once the fire cooled, she then took handfuls of ashes and turned north, south, east, and west letting the ashes fall from her hands as she spun.
When the tribe awoke, the barren landscape was covered in lush blankets of blue and green. The Great Spirit had forgiven them. The tribe renamed the little girl “One-Who-Dearly-Loves-Her-People.”
Tomie dePaola wrote and illustrated a fabulous picture book based on the legend. It’s available here.
She convinced states that wildflowers were good at erosion prevention along the roadside and suggested strongly that mowers skip cutting the wildflowers until after they had dispersed their seeds. She even requested that mowers scatter flower seeds the last time they mowed in the fall.
Former Texas Governor John Connally offered free packets of wildflower seeds to Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and anyone who wrote to him. Other states followed with their own wildflower programs for their roadways.
Lady Bird’s efforts provided the wildflowers we see on so many roadways when we travel each Spring. Funding cuts over recent years have eliminated many seed sowing programs, but the show happens every year.
This year in Texas the show is magnificent and from the pictures appearing on social media I think it’s a good blooming year for the hills and highways everywhere.