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UT-Austin To Pluck Maroon Bluebonnets, But Flower Creator Says It's No Prank

There’s another twist in the scandal that should be known as Bluebonnet-gate. Or maybe we should call it Maroonbonnet-gate?

That’s not exactly the color of choice for University of Texas Longhorns. So when maroon-and-white bluebonnets began sprouting in the shadow of the UT Tower this spring, the burnt-orange brigades saw red. Accusations flew.

Two Texas A&M horticulturists developed a maroon bluebonnet, but one told KERA he doesn’t think the UT version is the real thing.

“The seeds, I’m pretty sure, came from the grower who didn’t pull the pinks out of his field, so when you’re buying some blue seeds, you’re getting some accidental pinks in there,” Greg Grant told KERA. He’s now a research associate at Stephen F. Austin University’s Piney Woods Native Plant Center. “If you leave them alone, they’ll gradually turn back into blues.”  

On Tuesday, UT announced its revenge. The offending flowers will be uprooted – that’s according to Markus Hogue, UT’s program coordinator for irrigation and water conservation.

Hogue does have a grudging respect for the alleged pranksters.

"I'm happy they chose a drought-tolerant plant,” he told the Houston Chronicle. “Even if this was done by an Aggie, it was done in good taste."

Grant told KERA: "In case nobody noticed, the flowers there on the UT campus are not maroon, which means it couldn't have been a prank. There is no commercial source for the assorted shades of pink that occurred. These are the colors we used 20 years ago to develop the maroon. So where did the pranksters obtain them? Any good prankster would have purchased Alamo Fire bluebonnets from Wildseed Farms and spelled his name out in true maroon! These were accidental rogue seed that came with the seed when they were purchased and inadvertently planted.  They are not genetically modified but selections from the wild and will not take over the campus beds as they are recessive genes to the dominant blue. Not near as good a story but more likely the truth."

By the way, here are 15 amazing things you should know about Texas bluebonnets.

Original post: Officials at the University of Texas in Austin say they intend to pluck the maroon bluebonnets that have mysteriously appeared in the shadow of the UT Tower.
It's believed that Texas A&M pranksters at some point planted the seeds for a variant of bluebonnet known as Alamo Fire, which is a shade of maroon. The Texas A&M colors are maroon and white, which Longhorn fans find unsightly in light of their loyalty to burnt orange.

Markus Hogue, UT's coordinator for irrigation and water conservation, tells the Houston Chronicle the Alamo Fire will be removed soon. He says any maroon bluebonnet that's seen next year will be immediately pulled.

"We're trying to make it as discrete as possible, and we're trying to capture the seeds," Hogue told the Chronicle. Next year, we're going to pull any maroon bluebonnet as soon as we see it."

But with much of Texas deep in drought, Hogue did give the suspects credit for choosing a plant that needs little watering.

William Powers, Jr., UT-Austin president,talked about the maroon bluebonnets with KUT, the public radio station in Austin:

"We don't know for sure where they came from; if it’s the work of some Aggies, hats off to them, it's kind of clever. You know anyone wearing maroon would love to wake up and be in a better place."

Learn more about maroon bluebonnets.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.