Tuesday, June 20, 2023

#464 • The Lupine Dilemna

Click here to purchase this painting #464

We took a walk on North Haven and passed this field of lupine in full bloom. It's June - they're blooming everywhere. I was curious about their origin and found some pretty interesting stuff.

Lupine are not native to New England

Lupines are not native to New England. They were initially planted in Europe to stabilize soils and feed animals, according to the New England Historical Society, and bears like to eat their roots. In some European countries, lupines are so prolific that they threaten to crowd out forest herbs.

Though some lupines are successful food crops for animals, other varieties are toxic to animals and can cause discomfort for us humans if eaten. While the poison is present mainly in the seeds of the plants, small amounts are also in the foliage. Additionally, lupines post a risk to the plant community because they are susceptible to several fungal diseases and viruses and are host to a type of aphid that has few natural predators.

The lupine most of us see are considered invasive

In years past, there was a species of Lupine that was native to Maine, Lupinus perennis, but it is now so scarce that it is nearly extirpated from the state of Maine. The lupine you see along Maine's highways are not native to Maine. It is Bigleaf lupine, Lupinus polyphyllus, which originated in the western United States. This plant was introduced to Maine as a landscaping plant, and quickly got out of control. It is what we refer to as an invasive species that can crowd native species out of their preferred habitats. Also, their seeds are toxic to animals if too many are consumed, which could threaten both grazing farm animals and native herbivores. 

The National Park Service prioritizes protecting native species and works to eliminate nonnative invasive species. Currently, the park removes Bigleaf lupine when it encroaches upon natural habitat.

This species spreads like any recognized invasive plant and it has displaced both rare and common Maine plants. Lupine could have an impact on the migratory monarch butterfly because it crowds out native milkweed. The larva of the monarch depends on milkweed as its host plant; it cannot eat lupine.

They are a good source of nectar for pollinating insects and has been known to attract hummingbirds. This plant also provides regulating ecosystem services, as it has deep roots that help prevent erosion, as well as supporting services, as it is a legume and thus fixes nitrogen and returns it to the soil.

Now what?

Hmmm..so lupines are beginning to take over my flower gardens. They are popping up everywhere. Guess I need to pull a few of them.

The Lupine Dilemna • 8" x 8" acrylic framed to 12" x 12" • $275

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