Sunday, June 12, 2022

Plant Profile: Wild Lupine

Wild lupine with spikes of purple flowers blooming on a prairie.
Wild lupine, Lupinus perennis

Wild lupine, Lupinus perennis, is at or just after its peak season of flowering at Crow Hassan Park Reserve. It's also called sundial lupine because its leaves are said to orient themselves to the sun.

This native of oak savannas and sandy prairies is a larval food source for the Karner blue butterfly, Lycaeides melissa samuelis, a federally endangered species. Wild lupine also supports at least seven other moths or butterflies as well as bumble bees, carpenter bees, mining bees and mason bees. See the reference to Heather Holm's book below.

In northeast Minnesota and parts of Wisconsin, bigleaf lupine, Lupinus polyphyllus, has become abundant and even invasive. Also called garden lupine, it was introduced from western states for ornamental use, and it is still available at many nurseries. Although it's valued for its colorful flowering scapes, its aggressive growth can displace native plants and pollinators. Bigleaf lupine does not support the Karner blue butterfly. 

The name "lupine" comes from lupus, the Latin word for "wolf." Lupine was once thought to deplete or "wolf" soils of minerals, but it does the opposite. Bacteria inside small nodules on its roots convert atmospheric nitrogen gas to usable form. When plant parts decompose, the soil is then enriched. 


Pollinators of Native Plants, by Heather Holm. Pollination Press LLC, Minnetonka, Minnesota. ISBN 978-0-9913563-0-0.

Oak Savanna Restoration for Karner Blue Butterfly. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Accessed June 12, 2022. 

Lupinus perennis (Wild Lupine). Minnesota Wildflowers Info. Accessed June 12, 2022. 

For the love of (wild) lupine. Tufts Pollinator Initiative, Tufts University. Accessed June 12, 2022.

Wild Lupine, Lupinus perennis. Illinois Wildflowers. Accessed June 12, 2022.

Lupinus perennis. Flora of Wisconsin, Wisconsin State Herbarium, UW-Madison. Accessed June 12, 2022. 

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