Monday, June 1, 2015

Wild Lupine





Last Friday, Erika and I found a patch of Wild Lupine, Lupinus perennis, in the River Bend Nature Center near Fairibault, Minnesota. This plant’s generic name, Lupinus, originates from the belief that the plant depleted, or wolfed, soil nutrients—Lupus is the wolf’s genus. In fact, like most plants in the family Fabaceae, Lupinus fixes nitrogen into the soil, thus adding to the fertility of the land. The Minnesota Wildflower website does not show Wild Lupine as growing in Rice County, but, on the other hand, the prairie where we found it is not native, but planted by the Nature Center.

I can’t look at a lupine and not laugh. Its Monty Python’s fault. Who can forget the notorious British highwayman, Dennis Moore, and his quest to redistribute Britain's wealth by stealing lupines from the rich and giving them to the poor?

Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore,
Riding through the night.
Soon every lupin in the land
Will be in his mighty hand
He steals them from the rich
And gives them to the poor
Mr Moore, Mr Moore, Mr Moore.

Actually Dennis Moore trafficked in European Lupinus, cultivated species not native, but escaped into parts of the United States, including Minnesota. These plants are larger and have multicolored flowers, varying from white to pink or purple. Due to habitat loss, Wild Lupine numbers have declined. This trend has adversely affected populations of Karner Blue butterflies, since their caterpillars only feed on Wild Lupine (wildfower.org). 

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