Garden of Texas emblems
Through the years, symbols have come to represent our state
March 4, 2010

by Olivia Blanchard,
Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
There seems to be an aura about Texas that many emulate and others have tried to duplicate. Along with that friendly pride, have come various symbols and emblems that have through the years come to officially represent Texas.

Texas History In Our BackYard

This first week of March brings to mind Texas history and Texas Independence Day on March 2, 1836. That spring, the Texas Revolution took place, beginning on March 2, and included the battle at the Alamo, the Fannin Massacre in Goliad, and the final battle on April 21 at San Jacinto, where the Texans were victorious over Santa Anna's army. All of these activities took place in or near our part of the state and where various Texas symbols and emblems can be found.

A Symbolic Narrative

The simple outdoors along with adopted customs help tell a story of Texas culture in the following narrative.
With more than 50 common varieties in Texas, the pecan became the state tree of Texas in 1919 and the official health nut of Texas in 2001.  Pecans most commonly grow in clusters of two or three, although they are found in a single cluster as well as in four or five.
The Texas bluebonnet was designated the official flower of Texas in 1901.  Equally as native, the prickly pear was named the state plant of Texas in 1995.  It has fleshy pads, a yellow bloom and an edible red fruit.
Listening to the songs of the mockingbird perched in the pecan tree can be delightful. However, it is time to go into the kitchen and get the cast-iron Dutch oven and prepare chuckwagon chili for a hungry crew. Bring in a harvest of chiltepin, Texas sweet onion and jalapeno peppers from the garden to prepare that spicy dish you will serve with Pan De Campo (cowboy bread). Or you may prefer fried tortilla chips and homemade salsa.

46 Symbols/Emblems

The Lone Star State has 46 symbols and emblems. Ten symbols in the preceding paragraph included the state bird, tree, cooking implement, vehicle, food dish, a native pepper, a vegetable, a pepper, bread and official state snack.

Beginning in 1901 and continuing to the present, symbols and emblems of Texas have been approved by the Texas House of Representatives and Senate, and then made official by the governor's signature. These tokens are significant to the state, because they are indigenous, or are an integral part in the culture of Texas.


Twelve of these symbols are plants, and most of them can be found in Victoria County. Various ones are outlined below.

*Pecan - The pecan (Carya illinoensis) is a double-winner as the state tree and health nut. Mature trees (80 to 100 feet) are found in river bottoms and landscapes. Native and hybrid forms can be purchased as bare-rooted or container grown. Pecan trees are planted at the same depth as grown in a nursery. Topsoil from the planting site is used as backfill. Trees should be planted away from nearby structures. After five years, the gardener will have to outwit sly, four-legged creatures in harvesting a nut crop.

- At the suggestion of John Green of Cuero, the bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnous) became the state flower in 1901. In 1971, all five bluebonnet species (Lupinus texensis) became the state flower. Only a few seeds germinate in the first year. It's nature's way to protect the species for two to three more years. Using scarified seeds allows higher germination rates. Transplants are available for your landscape.

Plant seeds from September to October in a sunny, well-drained area. Don't fertilize because the Rhizobium bacterium enables the bluebonnet roots to capture nitrogen from the air. New plants remain small on top, but root systems expand. Spring warmth initiates the stalks to bloom and display the brilliant blues.

*Crape Myrtle
- Summer color abounds from the crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), the shrub of Texas. It produces a flowering period of 60 to 120 days. Varieties (or cultivars) range from 18 inches to 40 feet at maturity. This deciduous shrub grows in any soil and tolerates dry conditions once established. Care includes regular fertilization and pruning only to remove overly dense branches or crossing limbs.

- The unique taste of our Mexican cuisine can be attributed to the Texas native pepper (chiltepin or chile tepin) and the state pepper (jalapeno). Chiltepin (also known as chiltepe, chile tepin or chilipequin) means flea chili, because it represents the "bite" experience. This 4-foot native perennial can live 25 to 30 years. The capsaicin chemical in the jalapeno causes the sensation of fire in your mouth. The TAM mild jalapeno No. 1 is a mildly pungent variety that can be planted after frost danger passes.

*Onion - Texas sweet onion is the state vegetable of Texas. The Texas sweet onion 1015 has less pyruvate and has become a favorite. Pungent onions rate a 7 to 10 in pyruvic acid, while sweet onions must be rated a 5 or less. The 1015 refers to Oct. 15, the planting date of the seeds.

*Grapefruit - In 1993, Texas crowned the Texas Red Grapefruit as the state fruit. The Ruby Sweet and Rio Star are great agricultural crops in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Official Fiber, Shrub, Plant and Grass

- Four more Texas symbols are abundant in this area. The choice for fiber is cotton, an agricultural crop. Sometimes, this mallow is used as an interesting educational addition in the garden.

*Texas purple sage
- The native shrub, Texas purple sage (Cenizo) bursts alive with flowers after a rain. This xeriscape plant can be found in the Victoria Educational Gardens located at the airport.

*Prickly pear cactus
- The selected Texas plant, prickly pear cactus, has fleshy pads with yellow spines. The Opunta cactaceae provides an edible red fruit called tuna, and the young pads can be cooked as nopalitos. This plant needs very little care to thrive.

*Sideoats grama (grass)
- The grass favorite is Sideoats grama (boutelous curtipendula). This prairie grass has small, oat-like seeds that hang on one side of the seed stem. This plant is great for animal foraging or as a rock garden accent to feed birds.

Do you feel a bit more Texan in knowing about these official emblems? Whether it be gardening, cooking, growing crops or being in contact with the great outdoors, these are what help make up Texas
The crape myrtle became the state shrub of Texas in 1997.  It flowers three to four months in the late spring and summer and ranges in height from 18 inches to 40 feet.  Blooming in shades from white to pinks and lilac, it grows in most any soil and tolerates dry conditions.
Bird ~ Mockingbird ~ 1927 
Fiber ~ Cotton ~ 1997 
Flower ~ Bluebonnet ~ 1901, 1971 
Fruit ~ Texas red grapefruit ~ 1993 
Grass ~ Sideoats grama ~ 1971 
Health nut ~ Pecan ~ 2001
Insect ~ Monarch butterfly ~ 1995 
Native pepper ~ Chiltepin ~ 1997 
Native shrub ~ Texas purple sage ~ 2005 
Pepper ~ Jalapeno ~ 1995 
Plant ~ Prickly pear cactus ~ 1995 
Shrub ~ Crape myrtle ~ 1997 
Tree ~ Pecan ~ 1919 
Vegetable ~ Texas sweet onion ~ 1997


Saturday 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
(Registration opens at 8 a.m.)
Victoria Educational Gardens Pavilion
283 Bachelor Drive ~ Victoria Regional Airport Topics: Designing Cut Flowers; WOW Plants for the Garden; Growing Grapes $35 at the door

LUNCH AND LEARN WITH THE MASTERS "Butterflies and Bees: Their Role in Pollination" Presented by Victoria County Master Gardeners Frances Kanak and Brynn Lee Noon to 1 p.m. Monday Dr. Pattie Dodson Public Health Center 2805 N. Navarro St. Victoria Free to the public Bring your lunch and drink
Texas sweet onion is the state vegetable of Texas.  Named the '1015' for the seed planting date of October 15, it is sweeter than those with the more pungent smell and taste.  It was made official in 1997.
Cotton, officially made the state fiber of Texas in 1997, is most commonly found in agricultural fields.  It sometimes can be used as an educational addition in the garden.  The cotton flower precedes the cotton boll in maturation.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at