Lupinus polyphyllus (Large-leaved Lupine)
|Also known as:||Western Lupine, Big-leaf Lupine, Garden Lupine|
|Life cycle:||annual, perennial|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; fields, roadsides|
|Bloom season:||May - July|
|Plant height:||2 to 4 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: none MW: FACU NCNE: FACU|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.
A spike-like raceme 6 to 18 inches long of ½-inch pea-shaped flowers on stalks about ½ inch long. Flowers are typically blue to violet, but may be pink, white, or 2-tone. The upper petal (standard) curls or folds back on the sides and is a bit smaller than the lateral wings below it. The raceme may be tightly packed or looser, the flowers spiralling or nearly whorled around the stem.
Leaves and stem:
Leaves are palmately compound in groups of 9 to 17. Leaflets are 2 to 5 inches long, to 1 inch wide, toothless, hairless on the upper surface, silky hairy on the underside, pointed at the tip, tapering at the base, on a long stalk. Stems are smooth and green.
Large-leaved Lupine is native to the Western US and in its native habitat, pretty consistently has blue-violet flowers. It was introduced to Minnesota by gardeners, and is also the dominant parent of a popular cultivar known as the Russell hybrid, which has additional colors including white, pink, red, purple, and yellow as well as bi-colored flowers. Both the straight species and hybrid have not only been known to escape cultivation, but were intentionally planted along roadsides, especially along the north shore of Lake Superior, where large mono-cultures have been formed and are spreading west and south. Apparently they did same thing in New Zealand, where it has also become invasive, and rumor has it L. polyphyllus has been introduced to Iceland with similar results (heavy sigh). Yes, it can be quite striking and many people have said how pretty those roadsides look, but that doesn't make it any less destructive.
Of note is the scarcity of herbarium records of this species; using those alone would make this pretty uncommon in Minnesota, which is far from the truth. The weed tracking system EDDMapS increases its range dramatically and adding reports from iNaturalist take it even farther west and south. Our own distribution map only shows a small percentage of populations reported on those systems; there are dozens more.
A similar species is the MN native Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis), which is an overall smaller plant with 7 to 11 leaflets, and whose natural range is primarily limited to southeastern and east central Minnesota.
Please visit our sponsors
Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Large-leaved Lupine plant
- a roadside infestation
- a roadside infestation of Russell hybrid
- garden grown plants
Photo by K. Chayka taken in Aitkin and Lake counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and St. Louis counties and in a private garden in Anoka County..
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?