Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Lupine

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Lupine
Scientific Name:Lupinus Species
Family:Fabaceae
Plant Type:Annual or Perennial
Size:up to 5 feet
Habitat:Chaparral, ridges, slopes, canyons, coastal scrub
Blooms:February to June

There are 82 species of Lupine (pronounced like "pin" not "pine") in California, with about 14 commonly found in the Santa Monica mountains. Blooming time ranges from February to July. Flower colors are white to various shades of blue and reddish-purple; it is often said the flower starts as white and once pollinated changes to the deeper hues. The leaves are palmately compound, and range from 5 to 9 leaflets. The number of leaflets on an individual plant can vary, as well as within and between varieties. Pods of varying size also form on the flower stems.

The name Lupinus means "wolf," referring to the untrue notion that this plant robs nutrients from the soil. In fact, Lupine is actually known to add nitrogen back to the soil; if you want to include it in your garden, plant seed in the fall in nutrient-poor soil.

The following chart gives some distinguishing characteristics of a few of the more common varieties native to our mountains. For a more comprehensive guide, you may wish to refer to a book such as Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains by Milt McAuley.

Names
Characteristics
Bush Lupine, Lupinus longifolius
Perennial shrub up to 5 feet tall, blooms Apr-Jun. Leaves have 6-9 leaflets up to 2 inches long and silky. Flowers are bluish-purple. A mature plant in bloom is quite striking. Pictured above.
Nettle Lupine, Stinging Lupine, Lupinus hirsutissimus
Annual, 1 to 3 feet high blooms from Mar-May. This species is very common on recently burned areas. Small, painfully stinging hairs cover leaves and flowers. Flowers are reddish-purple. Pictured below (Stagecoach Trail off the 118 freeway in Simi Valley, March 2006).
Dove Lupine, Lupinus bicolor
Annual, 4 to 16 inches high, blooms Mar-May. Like Nettle Lupine, it is also commonly found in recently burned or otherwise disturbed areas. It too has small hairs but is not known for stinging.
Broad Leaved Lupine, Lupinus latifolius
Perennial, 2 to 4 feet high, blooms Apr-Jul. Leaflets 1 1/2 to 4 inches long. Found in protected canyons.
Succulent Lupine, Arroyo Lupine, Foothill Lupine,Lupinus succulentus
Annual, 6 inches to 2 feet high blooms Feb-May. Leaflets up to 3 inches long, small non-stinging hairs. More common in clay soil. Thicker and fleshier than other lupines but not like true succulents.

Contributed by Liz Baumann

Other Similar Plants:
Deerweed Acmispon glaber
Wild Sweet Pea Lathyrus vestitus
Leather Root Hoita macrostachya

Originally featured: April 2006
Last modified: October 14 2017 16:35:00.
References:
Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves