What's the Difference Between a Bluebonnet and a Bluebell?

Despite their names, these pretty flowers never give us the blues.

Bluebonnet. Photo: Matt Cowley/Getty Images

While we pride ourselves on an encyclopedic knowledge of plants, there are some that we still mix up, you know, in the heat of the identifying moment. One pair is bluebonnets and bluebells. These sound-alike flowers carpet the earth with delicate blooms in serene blue and lilac hues. When grasping in your mind for a name to call the pretty flowers you see, "bluebonnet" might slip out when you mean to say "bluebell." While their similar-sounding names might lead you to mistakenly call a bluebonnet a bluebell, and vice versa, these plants are not identical. They're two distinct species with blooms that are easy to distinguish if you look closely enough.

Bluebell. Mandy Disher Photography/Getty Images

Mandy Disher Photography/Getty Images

The secret to identifying bluebells is in their name. Bluebells have nodding, bell-shaped blooms. "Bluebell" is the common name of plants in the genus Hyacinthoides. Bluebells bloom from bulbs in the spring months, and they resemble hyacinths. They have loose flower clusters and narrow leaves on slender green stems. Their bell-shaped blossoms come in shades of beautiful blue, with many appearing more lilac or lavender in hue. Depending on the species, some blooms are scented, and others are unscented.

Bluebonnet. Renata Sharman/Getty Images

Renata Sharman/Getty Images

Bluebonnets, on the other hand, belong to the genus Lupinus. They are flowering plants that come in a variety of appearances. Those known as bluebonnets could be L. havardii, L. subcarnosus, or L. texensis. They're well-known in Texas, where they grow widely as wildflowers. They thrive in the dry soil that arid areas of Texas have so much of. When they bloom, bluebonnets produce deep blue flowers with tips (or "eyes") that are white. They rise on tall flower spikes that bloom densely.

With a bit of study, you'll never mistake a bluebell for a bluebonnet again. What other flowers would you like to learn to identify?

WATCH: 11 Pretty Purple Flowers to Plant in Your Garden

Do you have any favorite flowers that bloom in blue hues? What's your favorite blue wildflower?

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