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Wild Lupine Lupinus perennis


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Wild Lupine - habit
credit: Charles and Diane Peirce, Michigan Wildflowers.

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Alternate name: Sundial Lupine

Family: Fabaceae, Pea view all from this family

Description This plant, whose stems, stalks, calyx, leaves, and seedpods are somewhat hairy, bears pea-like blue flowers in an upright, elongated, terminal cluster on an erect stem with palmately compound leaves.
Habit: native perennial herb; stems light green to reddish green.
Height: 8-24 in (20-60 cm)
Leaf: alternate, palmately compound, long-stalked; 7-11 leaflets, oblanceolate, pale green below, to 2.5 in (6 cm) long and 0.5 in (12 mm) wide.
Flower: pale violet to pale blue (rarely pink or white), 0.5-0.75 in (12-19 mm) long; in terminal cluster, 4-10 in (10-25 cm) long.
Fruit: long hairy pod, to 2 in (5 cm) long and 0.5 in (12 mm) wide; around 7 seeds.

Warning Plants in the genus Lupinus, especially the seeds, can be toxic to humans and animals if ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Flower April to July.

Flower May - June

Habitat Sandy, well-drained, sunny or partially shaded sites: prairies, pine barrens, oak savannas, forest edges and openings, open woodlands, lakeshore dunes, disturbed sites, powerline rights-of-way; also cultivated as an ornamental.

Range Native to Ontario and eastern U.S., from Maine, south to Florida, west to Texas; and west from Virginia to Kentucky, Illinois and Iowa, north to Minnesota. Introduced and naturalized in Newfoundland.

Discussion Also called sundial lupine, blue lupine, wild blue lupine, perennial lupine. There is considerable interest in reestablishing colonies of lupine, because the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly (Lyceaides melissa samuelis) relies on Lupinus perennis as a larval host plant. Wild lupine is poisonous to livestock.

Lupines were once thought to deplete or "wolf" the mineral content of the soil; hence the genus name derived from the Latin lupus ("wolf"). Actually the genus, any all plants in the pea family (Fabaceae), enhance soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen into a useful form.

In the south this flower has narrower leaflets and is often recognized as a separate species, Nuttal's Lupine (L. nuttallii). Two southern species with undivided elliptic leaves are Spreading Lupine (L. diffusa), with blue flowers and a whitish spot on the standard (upper petal), and Hairy Lupine (L. villosus), a hairy plant with lavender-blue flowers and a red-purple spot on the standard. They are found from North Carolina to Florida and west to Louisiana. A species found in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado, Nebraska Lupine (L. plattensis), has blue flowers with a dark spot on the standard and paddle-shaped leaflets. L. polyphyllus (large-leaved lupine) is becoming extremely abundant in the Northeast, particularly Maine and adjacent Canada; it was introduced from the Northwest.

Comments Like other members of the pea family, this plant requires the presense of microorganisms which inhabit nodules on the plant's root system and produce nitrogen compounds necessary for the plant's survival. Soil/seed inoculum is available at most native plant nurseries.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Native Distribution New Hampshire to s. Ontario, n. Illinois, n. Indiana & e. Minnesota, s. to Florida & Louisiana

Site Preference Sand hills & clearings; open woods

Soil Preference Dry, sandy soils.

Wildlife Value Deer browse foliage. Birds and small mammals eat the seeds.