Lupinus perennis at Miller Woods

Family:     Fabaceae (Bean, Legume or Pea family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     30-60 cm (1-2 ft)

Blooming: Apr.-July


Wild Lupine (Blue Lupine)

Lupinus perennis  var. occidentalis  S. Watson

Stem is reddish-green covered in sparse, long grayish hair. The upper stems become the racemes of flowers that can be up to 25 cm (10 in) tall. 


Flowers display a variety of colors from blue, purple, pink and sometimes completely white as pictured below. As with all flowers in the Fabaceae family, Lupines have two wings, a banner, and a keel (example). After flowering, the lupines have an elongated, fuzzy seedpod which contains 4-9 seeds and prolongs the showiness of this brilliant plant.


Leaves: are compound with two or more leaflets alternately arranged with numerous long hairs.  Each individual leaf is palmate with 7 to 11 leaflets.  


Sun:  Full to part sun


Ideal conditions:  Dry, sandy soil with full to part sun.

Lupinus perennis at Tolleston Dunes
Lupinus perennis at Tolleston Dunes

Comments:  Henry David Thoreau poetically rejoiced at the "glory" of lupine's blanketing the hillsides with "such a pleasing variety of colors, purple, pink, or lilac - and white..."  He continues, "Such a profusion of the heavenly, the elysian color, as if these were the Elysian Fields (Thoreau 2016)."  Blue Lupine is an important species to our area due to its relationship with the federally endangered, Karner Blue Butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis).  Karner Blues rely on Blue Lupine as their food source.

Wild or Blue Lupine is also called "Sundial Lupine".  It is the only native lupine in Northwest Indiana. 

Etymology:  Lupinus comes from the Latin word for "wolf" translating thus into "wolfish".  Lore has it that it is called wolf due to the lupines' barren habitat to which it resides.  Ironically, as a member of the legume family, lupines actually help the fertility of the soil (Eastman 2003).  The epithet name comes from its persistence as a perennial (per- meaning throughout and annus meaning the year).

Butterfly or moth host plant:  Lupines are a host plant to the Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme), Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae)Karner Blue (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), Gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

all photos by Nathanael Pilla


Eastman, J.A. 2003. The Book of Field and Roadside: Open-Country Weeds, Trees, and Wildflowers of Eastern North America. Stackpole Bookes, Mechanicsburg, PA. pp. 185.

Thoreau, H.D. 2016. Thoreau's Wildflowers. ed. Geoff Wisner. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Species Present and Native