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Why I love lupines

 
gardener
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Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Lupines are a fantastic plant for a wild homestead and in my opinion should be considered in any temperate climate permaculture design.

This week’s blog post – Why You Need to Grow Lupines – dives into these amazing plants but here are some of the reasons why I love lupines.

I have planted lupines all over my wild homestead and they're a big part of how I boost the fertility of the soil in my new planting areas. I also just love seeing their flowers in late spring and early summer. They're amazing plants so please keep reading so you can learn more about lupines!

Benefits of Growing Lupines



There are native lupine species found all over the temperate world and even a lupine tree in Mexico. Here in western WA there are several native species of lupine that all grow a bit differently—some are perennial, others annual and some are tiny and some huge.

But they all have the same core benefits.

Lupines are nitrogen fixers and they all have a deep taproot. This makes them fantastic at improving degraded soil. Some species of lupines also put out a ton of biomass and can be chopped-and-dropped.

A great example is Riverbank Lupine – Lupinus rivularis

Riverbank lupine is a short-lived perennial native to the western coast of North America from British Columbia down through northern California. In its first year of growth it gets an abundance of non-woody stems but during the 2nd year these stems become woody and tough.

But you can chop-and-drop all the new growth coming from these woody stems resulting in a lot of high nitrogen mulch. I’m able to get at least 2 cuts from my riverbank lupines during their 2nd year before I let them flower in early summer—bees and especially bumble bees love lupine flowers!

The first chop-and-drop happens early in spring well before comfrey has grown much—at least on my property.

Riverbank lupine is a great example of the usefulness of lupines but there are dozens of other species of lupines for you to try on your wild homestead!

Another species of lupine is the broadleaf lupine which is also found in western WA. Despite having a taproot this species of lupine can regrow from small root fragments and will even send up shoots.

This growing behavior made the broadleaf lupine one of the first plants to colonize the disturbed area after the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens—the existing lupines got torn apart but then the root fragments that were spread all over just regrew!

So to summarize here are the core benefits of lupines:

- Deep taproot
- Nitrogen fixing
- Can produce large amount of biomass for chop-and-drop
- Support pollinators and other beneficial insects

I should add that some lupine species are even edible for human use (seeds) and some are good fodder for animals. But many are also toxic to livestock and humans so do your research into the different species of lupine before using them for these purposes.

Do You Grow Lupines?



So do you grow lupines? If so which ones have you grown? Please leave a comment sharing your experience with lupines.

And if you want to learn more about lupines make sure to check out the blog post which provides a lot more information about growing lupines.

While you are over on the blog most make sure to leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.

Also, feel free to share pictures of lupines in this thread—I think they’re very beautiful and I would love to see pictures of lupines you have growing on your wild homestead or in your area!

Thank you!
 
pollinator
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I grow Texas Bluebonnet, our native Lupine.
Spring-flowers-2019.jpeg
Texas Bluebonnet
Texas Bluebonnet
 
pollinator
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I was just checking my seeds, and sure enough, I'd ordered some Lupinus perennis from Outsidepride. Is this one of the toxic ones? I couldn't tell from your posting, Daron, but do lupines and comfrey grow well together?
 
pollinator
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I grow Texas Bluebonnet, our native Lupine.



I always look forward to the first Bluebonnets each year. They're a sure sign that spring will soon be here.
Staff note (Daron Williams):

Thank you for the comment on the blog post! You were the first so pie for you!

 
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I lived near an abandoned airfield in Northern Europe which had been completely colonized by lupine. They even pushed through cracks in the concrete. It was quite a sight really; they were all shades of blue, purple, and pink. I brought a few seedpods to my mom in northern U.S., and they grew there happily for years until repeatedly devoured by ravenous rabbits.
 
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Mk Neal wrote:

I brought a few seedpods to my mom in northern U.S., and they grew there happily for years until repeatedly devoured by ravenous rabbits.

I've tried planting Lupines several times. I fell in love with them when visiting a friend in Nova Scotia where they happily grew wild.  Now I'm wondering if rather than a failure to germinate issue, I've got a "consumed by rabbit" issue? I may have to specifically look for poisonous ones to plant, but I'd prefer not to, so maybe some rabbit fencing needs to be strategically located after I get some seeds.
 
Mk Neal
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The rabbits definitely preferred the lupines over everything, once they discovered them. They would eat up the leaves as soon as they emerged.

I'm sure mom did nothing special to germinate the seeds, and I did nothing special collecting and transporting them. (other than perhaps violating agricultural import laws..)

 
pollinator
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How did I not know that they were nitrogen fixers?! That's amazing!

Lupines are native to my area as well... out sometimes pervasive? Do you have any issues with the over crowding other species?
 
Daron Williams
gardener
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Tyler – Thanks for sharing that beautiful picture! I really love the Texas Bluebonnet. I have been so tempted to try to grow it here. I just love the blue color of its flowers.

Diane – I’m not sure, that species of lupine is not one I’m familiar with. Here is a link to a document with a little information from the USDA: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_lupe3.pdf

Looking at the US Forest Service page about this lupine they do list it as being toxic to sheep and horses. https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/forb/lupper/all.html#IMPORTANCE%20TO%20LIVESTOCK%20AND%20WILDLIFE

One thing I would note about toxicity and livestock is my understanding is that in a diverse pasture animals will avoid the toxic plants and sometimes even use them to self-medicate. These plants tend to be an issue in hay or overgrazed pastures where the animals have no real options. But someone else with more experience with livestock might be better able to answer your question.

Kc – They sure are beautiful plants and thank you for the comment on the blog post!

MK – Thanks for sharing! Yeah, lupines are fantastic for helping to improve degraded sites. I wonder what type the ones you saw were… interesting that the rabbits browsed on them at your Mom’s place. The rabbits here have left mine alone. But I’m sure they are different species of lupines. Thanks for sharing!

Jay – You might try some of the native ones to the west coast. Here on my wild homestead the rabbits have left all my lupines alone despite there being an abundance of lupines for them to choose from. The rabbits have browsed plants growing right along side my lupines but left them alone.

I have had good luck soaking lupine seeds overnight but riverbank lupine can just be broadcast seeded in the fall. I did this at a restoration site on top of woodchip mulch and there is already a ton of seeds germinating and growing down through the woodchips.

Ashley – There is a lot of information to learn about plants! I feel like I’m always learning something new! 😊 Lupines are very vigorous in their growth and I have had to cut some of mine back to prevent them from overtopping young shrubs and trees. But that can be a good thing if you have the time to chop-and-drop them. All that nitrogen rich biomass can really help your other plants out.

But you can also look at growing different varieties of lupines. Some are more compact and smaller—miniature lupine which grows in BC only gets up to 3-4 inches but is also an annual. It grows wild in prairies in my area and is really beautiful when in bloom.

------------------------

Thanks all for the comments! Please keep them coming and I would love to see more pictures of lupines! 😉 Sorry for the delay in getting back to you all—my son (almost 3) has been sick all week so I haven’t had as much time to get on here as normal.
 
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though not native to Maine, they are everywhere here! some of the best wild strawberry patches are bordering lupine stands. i have a steep ditch that was difficult to mow so i seeded it for several years with wild harvested seeds. . now the whole ditch is covered with them and they shaded out the weeds. its right near my garden and fruit trees/ bushes so it keeps the bees nearby. love the flowers!
 
pollinator
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There are at least two species of lupin that produce seeds large and abundant enough for use as food.  One is from the Mediterranean and the other from the Andes, I believe.  They are popular crops in some parts of the world (Australia comes to mind first). Apparently the seeds need fairly extensive processing to render them edible....a leaching process, or fermentation into tempeh.  But they are very high in protein and might be a good crop in the right climate.  I have planted some with a view to their being a winter/early spring crop for me, comparable to peas or fava beans; but they are not up yet
 
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