Like the previous Medicago sativa, elegant lupine or dwarf mountain lupine is a member of the pea family, or Fabaceae. The Fabaceae contains about 750 genera and 19000 species, making it the third largest plant family by number of species.
The scientific name for this western North American taxon is still sometimes listed as Lupinus lyallii (particularly in Canada), but both the Jepson Eflora (Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii) and soon-to-be-published 2nd edition of the Flora of the Pacific Northwest use Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii. I wonder if the reason gets into the politics of conservation; the 2009 assessment of Lupinus lepidus (PDF) in Canada classified the taxon as endangered. However, that assessment is for the entity that is known as Lupinus lepidus var. lepidus, or the prairie lupine. If one asserts that Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii is to be recognized as Lupinus lyallii, then the species Lupinus lepidus can indeed be considered endangered. But, if you agree that Lupinus lyallii should be Lupinus lepidus var. lobbii, then Lupinus lepidus is by no means endangered in Canada, only the variety lepidus. Some people and organizations place less importance (and therefore funding) on conserving endangered varieties if the species is secure, so that is where it is possibly political.
Elegant lupine prefers subalpine and alpine habitats in mountainous areas of the western USA and British Columbia (although, curiously, the Jepson eFlora account does not mention it as occurring in British Columbia). I first saw it on Steens Mountain in Oregon, but today’s photograph was taken under smoky skies last year in Cathedral Provincial Park and Protected Area. Photographing was an excuse to slow down; with the smoky haze, we paused 6 or 7 times for a breather as we ascended the small subalpine hill. A couple days later and under smoke-free skies, we only needed to stop once for a brief time.
In BPotD news for those who are IT-savvy, we’ve finally made the transition to HTTPS from HTTP. If you were ever getting “this is an insecure site” from your browser, that message should no longer appear.