Monday, May 10, 2010

Sky Blue Lupine - Lupinus diffusus

Sky blue lupine (Lupinus diffusus) is one of Florida's most beautiful wildflowers.  It is found nearly statewide in sandy well-drained uplands and in our neighboring states throughout the Deep South.  It is extremely sensitive to growing conditions and its distribution is restricted only to those areas with the proper soils and high light.  It also responds quickly to soil disturbances and prescribed fire.  Its seed can lie dormant for years waiting to be released.  When this happens, large areas can become dominated by this lupine - for a few years. 
Sky blue lupine is a very short-lived perennial.  From my experience, it rarely lives beyond about three years after germination.  The first year is spent as a non-flowering seedling while a few flowers occur in year two.  In the third year, individual plants may be several feet across and up to two feet tall.  At this size (as those plants pictured above), the entire plant seems to be covered in sky blue flowers.  Most of these plants, set large numbers of seed and then die by fall.
Sky blue lupine is unique among our native lupines.  Although most have lanceolate leaves covered by silky hairs, others tend to have pink or deep purple blooms.  The foliage is evergreen, though it often is eaten by moth caterpillars and may almost disappear for times due to this.  Flowering occurs in February through March.
As beautiful as this wildflower is, sky blue lupine is unlikely to be offered in the trade to home gardeners.  It is exceedingly difficult to grow in pots, for one.  Though I have worked with this plant for years and get most seeds to germinate, very few live past the first leaf phase.  Those that do, do not do well in pots for very long and need to be transplanted into the garden.  At this stage, most simply die as they "hate" to be moved.  But, I have had some that lived, flowered and produced seed - and these were magnificent.  If you have the right soil for lupines, and you love them as much as I do, you may wish to frustrate yourself with one of Florida's greatest wildflower gardening challenges...  If you succeed, the effort will be well worth it and if you don't, you will join countless others.  At least you will have company.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the info. I live in Citronelle florida(outside of Crystal River) and have two patches of this beautiful flower in the outskirts of my woods. It took several people to try and figure out what it was. We have lived here 5 years and have never seen it before and this year they just popped up. your site was very informative

    Jenifer Robinson 727-543-9445

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  2. Finally. I find pictures of what I have been seeing for the last several years blooming on the side of the road. As a note, it's April 25th and they're still blooming. I live in NW Florida, Santa Rosa county.
    Now I have to get some seeds.

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  3. If you live in Sanata Rosa, make sure that what you are seeing is L. diffusus and not L. westianus - which is a listed species. I do not have photos of westianus - have not seen it in bloom, but the flowers are pinkish and the plants grow in coastal dunes. Take a look at the photos on the USF site: http://www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=1078

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  4. I would like to try and establish a plot of these. I have several spots on 5 acres. If any seed availible please email dtflaaquascape@gmail.com Thanks Dan...

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  5. I found several clusters that have gone to seed in the field across the street from me. I am in Panama City. They are quite beautiful when they bloom!

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