Edge of the Prairiethe sand prairies and savannas of the Chicago region

    Lupinus perennis occidentalis
    Sundial lupine

Blue lupines, Starke County Indiana

Found in sunny areas of bare sand, lupines thrive in black oak sand savannas and were very common prior to fire control. Today, homes, livestock pens, and brush are invading their last strongholds and the Memorial Day displays of this outstanding and ecologically important species are becoming a rarity.

At Big Eastern we've been attempting to preserve and enhance our native population of lupines for over twenty years. While our efforts haven't been rigorously scientific, we've learned that lupines can be transplanted successfully as seedlings in early spring, but the tip of the root must not be damaged. Colonies develop slowly, but once established they will persist for many years in appropriate habitat. For best results select an area with a little slope and an open exposure to the south or east. Bare, sterile looking sand is the best, but they'll also grow in black sand if it's well drained.

Lupine roots contain nodes with colonies of nitrogen fixing bacteria, enabling it to thrive in nutrient poor sand. In earlier days people observed lupines' tendency to colonize sterile areas and mistakenly concluded that these wildflowers had caused the nutrient depletion by "wolfing" all of the nutrients from the soil--hence the name lupine, a derivative of "lupus" which is Latin for "wolf".

varigated blue lupine
blue lupine - white colony

The plants pictured above show the variation of pigmentation found in wild lupine populations, from indigo to pure white, along with a few pink individuals. A large colony in bloom is an impressive sight and is accompanied by a characteristic honey-like fragrance that must make it an easily found destination for pollinating insects.

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Close-Up View of a lupine flower. [144k]

Colony of Lupines with morning dew. [245k]

Landscape view of a large lupine colony. [209k]

Active dune with lupines in bare sand. [95k]

All photographs by Marty Lucas and © Becknell and Lucas Media, Ltd. Students may freely use these images in school reports not for publication without requesting permission. Others, please request permission by writing e-mail to Marty Lucas. Requests for uses aiding in the understanding and appreciation of prairies and native plants are routinely granted. Higher resolution photographs (sans copyright notice) suitable for printing are available for purchase.


Demographic and genetic factors affecting population viability of Lupinus perennis, an indicator species of Oak Savanna a research project currently being conducted by Helen J. Michaels of Bowling Green University and Randall J. Mitchell of the University of Akron. Funded by EPA.

Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat Conservation Plan a Wisconsin project to save the Karner Blue, a lupine dependent butterfly.

Range map on TAMU.

Plant Profile - NRCS.

Black Oak/Lupine Barren - a nice description of this Great Lakes region plant community (note that the one at Big Eastern isn't actually in the Great Lakes watershed, but rather the Illinois watershed; nevertheless it's only about 35 miles from Lake Michigan)

A black oak - lupine barrens is given the catalog number CEGL002492 in Plant Communities of the Midwest, Indiana Subset [Assoc. for Biodiversity and TNC]

Useful Plants of the World entry for blue lupine. This is an Australian web site providing a list of scholarly publications relating to this species for the period of 1988-2000.


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