The beauty of Lupines are not just in their flowers.
Common Name: Lupine
Scientific Name: Lupinus species
Family: Fabaceae (the Legume or Pea family)
Lupines are beautiful wildflowers found almost around the globe. Known primarily for their showy spikes of flowers in blues, purples, reds, yellows, and white, these legumes put nitrogen back into the soil (natural fertilizer), host a number of beneficial insects, can act as a groundcover to protect top soil, and some species even produce edible seeds. A brilliant addition to the home and Forest Garden.
Found almost all over the world, there are likely native or at least naturalized Lupines close to where you live. They have been used as food plants likely for thousands of years. The Romans were fond of the seeds, but have been used by most Mediterranean cultures. The South and North American species were also used by natives there as well. More recently, there has been a growing trend to use Lupines as a cash crop alternative to soy, livestock forage and feed crop, as well as developing a wide variety of ornamental flowering varieties.
- Edible species include Wild or Sundial Lupine (Lupinus perrenis), Seashore Lupine (Lupinus littoralis), Blue Lupine (Lupinus nootkatensis), another Blue Lupine (Lupinus augustifolius), and White Lupine (Lupinus albus), but the best is likely the Pearl Lupine (Lupinus mutabilis).
- There are larger species in the Lupine genus… the most common large species being the Tree Lupine or Yellow Bush Lupine (Lupinus arboreus) that grows to over 6 feet (2 meters) tall.
- Lupines are an important larval food for many butterflies and moths.
USING THIS PLANT
- Ornamental flowering plant (wildflower)
- Edible seeds in some species – used as cooked bean substitute, can be roasted then ground into a powder (NOTE: seeds contain a bitter toxin that can easily be leached out by soaking the seeds in water overnight, and up to 3 days) and discarding the soaking water.
- Some species produce an edible oil from the pressed seeds
- Nitrogen fixing plant (puts nitrogen back into the soil) – inoculated with leguminous bacteria.
- General insect (especially bees) nectar plant
- Provides shelter for parasatoid wasps (beneficial wasps that prey on plant pests)
- Lacewings (beneficial insects) prefer to lay eggs on this plant
- Dynamic Accumulator (Phosphorus, Nitrogen)
- Groundcover – space plants about 1 foot (30 centimeters) apart
Yield: Not applicable
Harvesting: Not applicable
Storage: Not applicable
DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
AHS Heat Zone: No reliable information available
Chill Requirement: No reliable information available
Plant Type: Small to Medium-sized, Clumping Herbaceous Perennial
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Herbaceous Layer or Groundcover Layer (depending on the species)
Cultivars/Varieties: Many varieties available.
Pollination: Self-Pollinating/Self-Fertile – pollinated by bees
Flowering: May-July depending on the variety and USDA Zone where it is planted
Life Span: No reliable information available, but if conditions are fair to good, Lupines will self-reseed.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT
Size: 1-4 feet (30-120 centimeters) tall and 1-3 feet (30-90 centimeters) wide
Roots: Fibrous network of roots
Growth Rate: Medium – Fast
Amazing photo of a field of wild Lupines near a church.
Close-up of Lupine leaves – natural water catchers!
GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT
Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade
Moisture: Dry to Medium soils
pH: most species prefer acidic to near neutral soil (3.5 – 6.5)
Propagation: By seed (needs scarification) or by Spring cuttings of soft, basal growth. Division is reported to be difficult.
Concerns: Poisonous – There are many varieties of lupines that have toxic seeds, and the seeds can become contaminated with a fungus that produces toxins as well. If you are going to eat the seeds, really know what you are doing.