Tuesday, April 23, 2024 Apr 23, 2024
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The disquieting news long the horticultural front is enough to make a Texas traditionalist see red: the bluebonnet has gone pinko. Or worse, Texas A&M maroon-o. Oh my. You can thank-or blame-Dr. Jerry Parsons of A&M’s agricultural extension service.

It all began with the Sesquicentennial and its attendant deranged excesses. Back then, state horticulturists hallucinated a Sesquicentennial flag planted out of bluebonnets. Alas, there were precious few white and pink flowers, much less red ones, since those colors are naturally selected against.

Parsons estimates that white blossoms may occur once in ten million plants, and even rarer are the pinks-maybe one in a hundred million. And it was not until the pink ones were isolated that they even knew red ones were possible.

But a public-awareness campaign throughout Central Texas resulted in enough of the variant plants to cover a few acres, and, segregated from the pollen of the dominant blues, the recessive whites and pinks began to flourish.

Parsons is now isolating ma-roonbonnets out of the six acres of pinkbonnets. and further lusts to bring home a strain that will bloom at Christmastime, presumably to be called the Xmas-bonnet. Probably the most popular will be the sky-blue “Worthington” bluebonnet, named after the Fort Worth hotel that kicked in an initial $30,000 in, er. seed money for the project.

Another problem Parsons set out to lick was the hardness of bluebonnet seeds, a factor that makes it difficult for them to sprout except under the most ideal conditions. So Parsons dips the seeds in acids to soften them up.

Purists might argue that the best color for a bluebonnet is, redundantly, blue. And they may rightly wonder if a mockingbird that can’t sing and perhaps a softshell armadillo are next on the drawing board. Parsons says that such critics need to take the matter up with God instead of him, since the variants are after all quite natural.

And the purists will win over the long haul. Since the pinko-bonnets are genetic recessives, once in the wild they’ll disappear after a couple of generations. So Texas bluebonnets will be forever in blue genes.

The weird ones, however, will be on display this spring at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

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