Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 21 comments


A couple of decades ago I noticed how common it is for purple wildflowers to have white variants. A colony of bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) in Round Rock on April 2nd presented me with one whitebonnet, shown above. On April 6th at the Nails Creek Unit of Lake Somerville State Park I doubled my fun by mostly lining up one whitebonnet with another. I’ve been finding more of them this year than usual.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 16, 2022 at 4:28 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Nice capture Steven. Lupines are realy lovely and there is so much variaty in color.


    April 16, 2022 at 4:39 AM

    • North America is home to dozens of lupine species. As I said in my other comment, I hope that in some coming spring you’ll get to see (and smell) bluebonnets here in their native habitat.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 16, 2022 at 8:02 AM

  2. The whitebonnet is very winsome.


    April 16, 2022 at 4:53 AM

  3. I can support your sense that these lovelies might be more common this year, since I found three of them last weekend. It’s interesting to see the differences between your photos and mine, as well as differences between my own photos. It’s partly due to context — where the flowers were situated– and partly due to decisions about composition and processing. Loving white bluebonnets/spiderwort/blue-eyed grass/bluebells as I do, every one of them makes me smile.


    April 16, 2022 at 7:06 AM

    • Your non-alliterative alter ego can be Linda White. It’s good to have corroboration that white bluebonnets are more common than usual in 2022. Even so, a field in Dubina that was bluebonnet-dense last year included several areas with a few white ones in each area, whereas this year in that field I found exactly one white bluebonnet in the whole (sparse) colony. As for white spiderworts, it’s been years since I’ve seen any, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any white blue-eyed grass. There’s still time for white bluebells a couple of months from now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 16, 2022 at 8:11 AM

  4. Yes! It is weird that so many unrelated purple or blue flowers have white counterparts! Agapanthus, lilac, wisteria, jacaranda, plumbago, campanula, grape hyacinth, . . .


    April 16, 2022 at 10:55 AM

    • I expect botanists have an explanation for why so many purple flowers have white variants, though I’ve never heard their explanation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 16, 2022 at 1:18 PM

      • Many flowers tend to concentrate on particular ranges of color, such as yellow and orange, or orange and red, or red and pink (which is merely a tint of red). It is how they appeal to the preferences of their preferred pollinators. I suspect that many flowers that concentrate on both red and pink are also utilizing infrared, which we can not see, but is adjacent to red. It seems that there are not as many red flowers with white counter parts are there are blue flowers, but perhaps pink is the next best thing, since it is a combination of red and ‘white’, and the ‘white’ may not be as white as it seems to be. Similarly, purple flowers tend to utilize more ultraviolet color than flowers of other color. Their white counterparts may not be as white as they seem to be to us. It makes sense to me, except that blue is not adjacent to ultraviolet as purple (violet) is.


        April 16, 2022 at 1:48 PM

        • Ultraviolet does seems a good avenue for an explanation. I’ve seen photographs of flowers in which ultraviolet light reveals patterns not not shown by light that’s visible to people.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 16, 2022 at 3:34 PM

          • Luminescent white flowers that use infrared color to attract pollinators are not as bright white as those that are also commonly blue, perhaps because the infrared color makes them look rather pallid. For example, the white flowers of nocturnal cacti are notably pallid, and seemingly translucent, rather than clear bright white.


            April 17, 2022 at 1:47 AM

  5. I can support your sense, in a non-scientific way, based on what I see in our spiderworts along the driveway. Most are blue/violet but many are pale blue and easily appear to be white until a very close look. Some are whiter than they are pale blue. Don’t bluebonnets have some white on them even when they are mostly blue? Our lupines, both native and non, have that combination.

    Steve Gingold

    April 17, 2022 at 1:05 PM

    • You’re right that even regular bluebonnets display a fair amount of white. Here’s an example:

      Bluebonnet flowers

      Like you, I’ve sometimes noticed that white variants of purple/violet flowers still betray tinges of the “standard” color.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2022 at 3:47 PM

  6. I see that I’m not the first to think that a white bluebonnet should be called a whitebonnet. 🙂 They are beautiful and the blue background in the second photograph adds to that beauty.

    Ann Mackay

    April 17, 2022 at 6:03 PM

    • I think I came up with the term whitebonnet by myself, though I never assumed other people hadn’t hit upon it independently. In the second photograph, I aimed to include the regular color as a contrast to the white.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 17, 2022 at 6:49 PM

  7. Likewise … we get the occasional white lupine here too.


    April 20, 2022 at 11:52 AM

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