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".
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.