Texas bluebells - Whoa, partner, don’t pick ‘em
Bandera Soil & Water Cons
Also known as bluebells, Purple Prairie Gentian and Eustoma russellianum, Texas bluebells have the reputation of being the largest blue-purple flower in Texas.
This is the only species in this genus and is found throughout most of Texas.
Although it normally produces beautiful, showy bluish-purple blossoms, a pink flowered plant has also been seen in North Central Texas. Rarely, a white flower will be seen in a colony of the plants.
Texas bluebell prefers low-lying areas with a bit of extra moisture and clay or sandy loam soils, particularly the moist areas around creeks, rivers, ponds, and stock tanks. Texas Bluebells also do exceptionally well in moist, sunny sites. In addition, they are found naturally in fields and prairies, especially in areas adjacent to streams and tanks.
Texas bluebells grow from one to two feet tall and, in the heat of summer, are crowned with dozens of long lasting two- to three-inch blooms. It is one of Texas’ most beautiful herbaceous wildflower.
In the past, bluebells were widely seen in fields in the Hill Country and blackland prairie. However, because they make wonderful cut flowers, Texas bluebells are not often seen growing naturally in the Hill Country.
On a gardeners’ and photographers’ forum, http://community.wildflowerhaven.com, “RichO,” a Texas bluebell aficionado, wrote that finding a true Texas bluebell is very rare now. He felt this was because people thoughtlessly pick the lovely flowers and because the soil preferred by the plant is usually turned into development areas.
“I know of one location that was destroyed by a rural development near Wimberley,” RichO wrote, adding, “These flowers are just fantastic when they bloom. When you see a cluster of them blowing in the wind it is truly breathtaking.” The true Texas bluebell blooms from May-June.
Other native flower enthusiasts also supported the contention that the Texas bluebells’ beauty contributed to their current demise in the wild.
Another wrote, “We came across this flower along the James River in Mason County. I had never seen these growing wild prior to that. One of the reasons these are rare in the wild is because they are picked. Picking the flower is detrimental to the plant as it propagates by seed.” Since seeds are available commercially, the woman asked everyone to refrain from gathering these lovely wild specimens and preventing the plant from reseeding in its natural habitat.
Additionally, although Texas bluebells are supposedly deer- and cattle-resistant, flower buds may be nipped during grazing.
The plant is considered an annual or short-lived perennial, lasting only two to five years.
It naturalizes readily from seed produced in upright capsules. One capsule can produce 1,200 seedlings.
The seed is exceptionally small and somewhat difficult to germinate. Since the seed requires light for germination, the best results have come from surface seeding in flats at approximately 70 to 75 degrees.
Field seeding can be done in spring or fall, however, spring germination usually results in the vegetative growth over-wintering and not flowering until the second summer. Fall germination should produce flowers the first season. Collect seed in June, when seeds inside capsule are black.
The Japanese have been breeding Texas bluebells for over 70 years. Japanese Texas bluebells have been developed in pink, white, and deep purple blue color varieties with flowers having both single and double petals.