You can’t miss all the lovely lupines in bloom right now. They are the poster child for the quintessential Maine summer — universally loved and cherished. And who could forget Miss Rumphius (The Lupine Lady)? The prolific lupines of Maine’s countryside are actually native to the West Coast and have only been here since the 1950s. The real Miss Rumphius is partially responsible for “decorating” Maine with masses of these Bigleaf Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus).
Maine’s true lupine is Sundial, or Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis) and is extirpated (locally extinct) from Maine. We can bring the wild lupine back by planting this native species in our rocky, sandy soils in full sun.
I planted these in our own habitat garden last year, and they are thriving. Compared to the naturalized variety, these wild lupines are small and more understated, but they pack a punch. They serve as a larval host for many species of generalist moths and butterflies. Wild lupine is also the (only) larval host for the endangered Karner blue butterfly (which is also extirpated from Maine, but can still be found in the Concord Pine Barrens of New Hampshire). The plant lacks nectar, but the pollen is consumed by mining bees, mason bees, and bumble bees.
And, get a load of this….
Did you know that lupines can actually signal to a bee that the pollen rewards are gone or almost gone? It’s true! After pollination occurs, the petals change color as a way of saying “no more here, try the next flower…” This re-directs the bee to a flower that needs pollination.
Is that just the coolest thing ever? I think so.
Sometimes protecting the earth can seem overwhelming. But there are things people can do in their own yard to make the world a better place for native wildlife. On her NRCM blog, Deb Perkins generously shares her 25 years of knowledge and experience with readers of this blog. The tips she provides here are just a small sampling of what she provides to clients interested in creating habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. Visit her First Light Wildlife Habitats for more information about how Deb can help you enhance your property for the benefit of native wildlife.