February 19, 2019

Mistaken Identity

Purple lupine

Pineo Photo | Purple lupine

Pink lupine

Pineo Photo | Pink lupine

Lupinus polyphyllus got its Latin name because it was once thought the plant drained the soil of its mineral content and so it was called “wolf,” or lupus. That bit of information couldn’t be further from the truth. Besides being a stunning flower that creates an iconic image of Maine, lupine is a member of the pea family and as a legume it fixes nitrogen in the soil, rendering it into a usable form for plants to grow better. Seeing it growing wild, one might think this perennial herb is an easy plant to grow. It can be tempermental to start from seed. But digging up plants is no guarantee, either. Lupine has a deep taproot. Cut the taproot too shallowly and the plant will not thrive and likely won’t survive. The lupine pictured here, which easily top 5 feet in full bloom, were the final result after years of failed transplants from the grandparents’ gardens.