Alix Crunk says that as a child growing up in Texas, she never questioned it when adults told her, “Don’t pick the bluebonnets.”
“Made sense — so I didn’t think to question it. And then when we had a state trooper come in, he mentioned it…I’ve heard it from so many credible sources, so it just kind of made sense, and I never thought to question it,” says Crunk, a teacher at Mills Elementary School.
But in fact, picking Texas’ state flower is perfectly legal, says state trooper Robbie Barrera.
“It is not a violation of the law to pick bluebonnets, though you do need to be cautious if you choose to pick a bluebonnet, where you pick them,” Barrera says. For instance:
“Don’t go on someone’s private property. If your neighbor’s growing bluebonnets and you go and pick those, then yes, that would be a violation of the law. But the bluebonnets themselves out on the side of the road, if you choose to pick them, it’s not against the law,” she says.
The Texas bluebonnet — which also comes in other colors, like white and red, beyond the traditional blue — was named the state flower more than 100 years ago, says Elias Guerrero at the Lady Bird Johnson Center for Wildflowers. And apparently, not everyone agreed on the bluebonnet idea.
"It was started basically by a dual of the sexes,” Guerrero says. “The men had an idea of the cactus. So it started out that way. But then the showier lupinus texensis, which we have now as our famous Texas Bluebonnet, was a much bigger and more robust flower. Many thought it exemplified the spirit of Texas and the people."
But just because you can pick them, Crunk says, that doesn't mean you should go on a bluebonnet-picking campaign.
“Especially in Texas, this is something we’re always going to encounter. So while it’s not illegal, this is something that’s beautiful. When you can see a field like this…and it’s a blanket of blue. That’s something incredible. So I kind of feel that illegal or not – if it’s beautiful, I let it be beautiful and continue to stay there and be beautiful for everyone else.”
So, picking bluebonnets is not, as it turns out, illegal. But for those who want to pick some, the Department of Public Safety offers a few suggestions here on its website.
“There are laws against damaging or destroying rights-of-way and government property — so pick a few flowers, but don't dig up clumps of them, and don't drive your vehicle into the midst of them,” the department says.
So put your babies and dogs in the bluebonnet patches, take your photos, and if you want to take some home, you won’t be arrested. Just don’t clear out the entire roadside – leave some for other Texans' family photos.