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Wild Blue Lupine

Wild Blue Lupine

Wild Blue Lupine

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A few months ago, a friend told me that a new book had come out: "Wild Blue Lupine: A Memoir of Surviving an Appalachian Childhood" (2017) by Elisabeth Price. It is a heart-wrenching story of Price's young life in the mountains of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia in the 1950s and 60s.hybrids are a hugely popular commercial variety available in mixed colors. Sometimes categorized as Lupinus x hybrida, these are derived from Lupinus polyphyllus as one parent species. Hybrid lupines are short-lived perennials that grow up to 3 feet tall and are hardy in zones 3 to 7. They have sometimes escaped garden cultivation to naturalize in surrounding areas, where the species quickly reverts to its L. polyphyllus parent. This is problematic in areas where L. polyphyllus is not originally a native plant. Species of genus Lupinus are legumes. Most legume species harbor beneficial bacteria called rhizobia on their roots. Genus-specific strains of this bacterium called inoculum can aid in the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen and improve long-term health of native plant communities. Inoculum is naturally-occurring in most soils and additional amendment is usually not needed. However, in low fertility soils it may be necessary. Genus-specific strains are available at prairiemoon.com/inoculum

Lupine

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This native species is grown much the same as the more common hybrid garden lupines. Lupines, having long taproots, are one of those fussy plants that dislike being transplanted. For this reason, it is better to try to establish them by seeding them directly into the garden. Lupines love cool weather and react badly to the combination of heat and humidity. In fact, some long-time gardeners for whom lupines once thrived are beginning to find that climate change is making the plant harder to grow in their regions, while gardeners in very cool zones are finding newfound delight in lupines. Because lupines develop long taproots, it is best to seed them directly into the garden in the location you want to grow them. Plant when the soil is warmed in the spring and all danger of frost has passed. Soak the seeds overnight, or scarify them by rubbing them with sandpaper or a nail file, then plant them in the garden about 1/4 inch deep. Water lightly each day until they sprout. They will take 14 to 30 days to germinate and sprout, so be patient.

The wild blue lupine, or common lupine, is a member of the Fabaceae, or pea family. It is found in the wild in pine barrens and sandy areas in the eastern United States. Fire suppression and habitat loss has led to fewer wild blue lupine in the wild. The wild blue lupine is the only food source of the caterpillar of the endangered Karner blue butterfly and is an important food source for the caterpillar of the frosted elfin butterfly. The introduction of other lupine species in its natural habitat and interbreeding between lupine species has also caused problems for the wild blue lupine population. This legume is a host plant of the Karner Blue butterfly, a federally-endangered species native to the Great Lakes region. After Wild Lupine emerges in spring, the first brood of the Karner Blue Butterfly will hatch from eggs laid the previous summer and feed on the new leaves for 3-4 weeks. Once the caterpillars pupate and emerge as butterflies, they only live for a week or two. During this time, they will mate, and lay eggs of the second and final brood of the season. The second brood will hatch in summer, and lay eggs that will lay dormant through the winter and hatch the following spring. Read more about the Karner Blue butterfly here! (Source: www.prairiemoon.com)

 

 

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