Bluebonnet: Texas Ice

“Bluebonnet” encompasses all six of the Lupinus species native to Texas and is the state flower.  Lupinus havardii Texas Sapphire and Texas Ice have been developed through recurrent phenotypic selection to provide blue and white flowered cultivars, respectively, for use in the cut flower industry.  These cultivars overcome previous problems encountered with other lupines by having: (1) a relatively short cropping time in the greenhouse (5 months); (2) good flower yields (12-25 harvestable racemes per plant); and (3) excellent vase life (8-12 days).  In addition, Texas Ice has white flowers.  This characteristic occurs at a frequency of only one in several million plants in the wild.

Texas Sapphire:  Seed was collected in spring of 1992 from a population that had been selected in the wild for its uniform blue flower color.  The seed from these specimens was planted in the fall of 1992 in field plots at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in El Paso.  Plants not having dark blue color, having fewer than 10 racemes, or having poor stem strength we rogued and the remaining plants were open-pollinated.  Seed was collected in spring 1993 from the selected plants.  Seeds (900) from the selected plants were seeded into pots and grown in a greenhouse in fall 1993.  A third of the seedlings was retained based on plant vigor, and when flowering began the plants were selected based upon flower color, number of racemes per plant, less that 1 cm spacing between flowers on the raceme, raceme thickness minimal flower abscission on the uncut raceme, total plant height and general plant vigor, including absence of visible disease symptoms, chlorosis, or insect infestation.  Three percent of the plants were selected for further advancement and interpollinated by hand.  Seed was collected in spring 1994.  Recurrent phenotypic selection was repeated the following year as described for the previous generation.

Texas Ice:  Four plants that had near-white flower color were identified in a wild population in a very isolated area.  Only five seeds were collected from these plants in spring 1992 because extensive shattering had occurred.  The collected seed was direct-seeded into pots and grown in the greenhouse in late summer 1992.  Four near-white plants were obtained and were interpollinated by hand.  Seed was collected in spring 1993.  Seed (900) were direct-seeded in pots and grown in the greenhouse in winter 1993-1994.  One third of the seedlings were selected based on plant vigor, and when flowering began the plants were selected using the same criteria described above for Texas Sapphire.  Most plants in the population were light to dark blue with some bicolors.  Four pure-white plants were selected and interpollinated by hand with seed collected in early summer 1994.  Nine hundred seed were direct-seeded in the fall of 1994, and one third of the seedlings were selected based on plant vigor.  All but eight plants in the resulting population were white and recurrent phenotypic selection was repeated the following year as described for the previous generation.  Plants from the sample lots of seed have been nearly 100% white flowered.  No evidence of inbreeding depression has been observed to date.

The following information applies to both Texas Sapphire and Texas Ice.

During greenhouse production, each plant produces 11-25 harvestable racemes, which are mildly fragrant and 30-60 cm long at harvest, with each raceme containing 20-40 open flowers at harvest.  An additional 5-10 flowers open after harvest.

General crop sequence-greenhouse production.  Seedlings emerge within 3-5 days after planting of scarified seed.  First visible signs of flowering occur within 2-2.5 months after planting of the seed and the first flowers are harvested about 2-3 weeks thereafter.  Flower production continues for a period of about 2-3 months.

The crop has only been tested extensively for greenhouse production.  Performance as a field-grown cut flower crop is uncertain.  The plants appear to have very specific soil requirements.  At this point, the only two commercially available growing media that have produced successful crops are Metro Mix 200 and Sunshine Mix No. 4.  Other media have resulted in plants with poor vigor.

Root rots are common when plants are over-watered.  Irrigation appears to be the single most important cultural practice.  Soil must become rather dry between waterings.

Seed is available for these two varieties at Texas Foundation Seed Service.  Texas Sapphire and Texas Ice are sold under a non-exclusive licensing agreement.  Those agreements are available through the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) at Texas A & M University.

 

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