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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

What's Blooming? Sundial Lupine

Posted by
Ginger Laurits
| June 6, 2019 | Filed under: Observations

Sundial Lupine. Photo by Allan Amioka.

Sundial lupine in the native plant border. Photo by Allan Amioka.

Maines native lupine is in full bloom now in the native plant border. Its flowers are all blue, unlike the multicolored lupine (native to the Northwest) often seen growing along roadsides.

Sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis), is so named because its leaves follow the sun, which I discovered one afternoon when I noticed that all the leaves were facing west! The native habitat for sundial lupine is dry open woods and clearings, such as oak savannas and pine barrens.

This lupine is "possibly extirpated" from Maine, its disappearance attributed to residential development, habitat loss, plant collecting, and hybridization with Northwestern lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus). This plant is also essential for the endangered Karner blue butterfly, which is no longer found in Maine.

If you think you might have found a patch of sundial lupine, give the leaves close attention. Wild (sundial) lupine has between 7 and 11 leaflets that reach only 5 cm in length, while naturalized lupine bears 11 to 17 leaflets that grow to 13 cm.

In Your Garden

Sundial lupine is easily grown from seed. It is a biennial and seeds need a cold period to germinate. Seeds can be sown in pots in fall and left outdoors for winter or planted directly in the soil in very early spring. Plants will show leaf growth the first year and will bloom the second. Sundial lupine prefers dry, sandy soil and full sun.

As a member of the pea family, it is nitrogen fixing, thus enriching the soil in which it is planted. Lupine seeds and instructions for growing them are available from the Wild Seed Project.

Come by the native plant border soon to see the sundial lupine in all its splendor and watch as it spirals around to follow the sun. Plant this Maine native wildflower in your home garden where it will flourish and bring you much joy.

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