It is difficult not to fall in love with a species bearing the common name sky lupine! I have always been a lupine fan. I grew up picking my favourite, the silky lupine (Lupinus sericeus), for Mother’s day bouquets. Although too short to hold its own in a bouquet, the photos of Lupinus nanus growing in dense meadows are more beautiful than any picked flower arrangement. Such meadows are reportedly common in California’s sage scrub and coastal prairies–a springtime sight I would very much like to see.
One particularly good place to go to see sky lupine is North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve in Butte County, California. This mesa, created by ancient basalt flows, provides unique conditions for an assortment of prolific wildflowers. It is best visited between February and May.
Like many other members of the pea family, or Fabaceae, lupines have a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria. This permits them to fix atmospheric nitrogen, improving the surrounding soil fertility. Ironically, the name Lupinus (meaning “wolf”) stems from an old belief that lupines “wolfed up” all of the nutrients in the soil because they were often seen growing in barren habitats. Due to its low habit, beauty, and ability to thrive in and improve poor soils, Lupins nanus is sometimes used to revegetate roadsides and forest fire sites.