Lupinus polyphyllus (Large-leaved Lupine)

Plant Info
Also known as: Western Lupine, Big-leaf Lupine
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:annual, perennial
Origin:Western US
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
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):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: irregular Cluster type: raceme Cluster type: spike

[photo of flowers] 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: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] 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. These 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 now spreading west and south. Apparently they've done 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 told me how pretty those roadsides look, but that doesn't make it any less destructive. 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.

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More photos

Photo by K. Chayka taken in Aitkin County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Aitkin and St. Louis counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Mavis - Ely, MN
on: 2011-05-14 04:48:53

I have seen them along ditches and roadsides near Ely in June.

Posted by: Henry - Minneapolis
on: 2011-06-29 10:31:35

Why does the USDA list bigleaf lupine as native in Minnesota?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2011-06-29 13:09:38

The USDA Plants maps are pretty outdated and there does not seem to be a way to correct them, which is why we started making our own maps earlier this year. The MN DNR is a better source to determine what is native and not, and their big list-o-plants marks Lupinus polyphyllus as not native. It is a western species that's been planted here. The native lupine is an eastern species, where MN is on the western edge of its natural range.

Posted by: Leona - Duluth
on: 2011-07-10 11:59:39

We saw TONS of it along the North Shore!

Posted by: Erin - big lake
on: 2011-07-16 22:22:59

Broke my heart to read that this is not native. I have some in my garden! I guess it's time to weed....

Posted by: ckt - Grand Marais MN
on: 2011-07-27 17:45:41

I LOVE THIS FLOWER!!! We first started seeing it in our area about 20 years ago. The seeds scatter themselves when they pop open, but we helped them along by collecting and scattering where we wanted them to grow. Now we have a huge area at our cabin north of Grand Marais that is just covered with them. They are so beautiful and the fragarance is delightful!!

Posted by: Micah - NE Minnesota
on: 2011-08-05 02:11:55

This was a very big year for lupines in NE Minnesota all along Hwy 61 and inland. Although it is an invasive species I do think they are very pretty.

Posted by: Joel - Wisconsin
on: 2012-05-22 15:18:17

Hi all. Do you also have sundial lupine, Lupinus perennis, in Minnesota? That species is native in Wisconsin. It would be a shame to accidently rip up sundial lupine mistakenly. Joel

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-05-22 18:27:12

Joel, take a look: all Lupinus in MN

Posted by: Ellen - Cotton
on: 2014-06-26 16:25:46

Is it legal to dig Lupine from ditches to replant in my yard?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-06-28 07:37:52

Please don't spread this around intentionally. It does enough of that on its own.

Posted by: Mike - Brainerd
on: 2014-07-09 12:16:17

If these are so invasive, then why in the heck are they being sold in seed packs at the store in "MINNESOTA" where unknowing gardeners can mistakenly plant them.? Sounds to me like DNR is not doing their job...!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2014-07-09 13:44:36

Mike, a lot of people think the DNR has any control over what plants or seeds are sold in Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) should be the focus of your ire—they are the governing agency for the nursery trade. They too easily cave into industry pressures to sell anything and everything in the state and are accountable to no one. They are, of course, the Dept. of AGRICULTURE, not the Dept. of Environment.

Posted by: Carol - Lake Vermilion, Tower, MN
on: 2015-07-17 17:12:50

We have the non-native lupines growing on our septic mound. We are trying to control by cutting the seeds but they are spreading too rapidly. Will this cause a problem for our septic mound? If so, do you have any ideas of how we can safely remove them?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2015-07-19 11:19:28

Try herbicide, or hand pulling if you're opposed to chemical treatment.

Posted by: Deb - Rothsay, MN Wilken County
on: 2016-03-20 22:03:08

What is the harmful effect that Lupine cause? the butterflies seem to love them. I have them in my garden and have a heck of a time trying to keep them alive! I love them, but I have not seen any large amounts anywhere. I am surprised that all the synthetic chemical spraying that is done doesnt kill them in the roadsides. Thank you.

Posted by: Beverly - Eagan, MN and Duluth, MN
on: 2016-06-13 18:25:52

I also have the question of why the lupines a problem? What do they hurt; do they kill other plants? Thank you for your answer.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-06-13 19:19:58

The non-native lupine displaces native plants.

Posted by: Willow - Cass County
on: 2016-06-15 13:11:53

Growing on mounds of discarded dirt near my house. Huge, huge plants. Near Leech Lake.

Posted by: Renee
on: 2017-01-04 20:11:31

Sadly there is a lot of ignorance concerning invasive species and none more than about the big leaf lupine. Initially I spread them around my yard, then spent lots of time eradicating them and will kill all big leaf lupine I ever come across. And by the way, have you seen them after bloom? Fuugggly.

Posted by: Martha - Shakopee
on: 2017-07-11 10:07:13

I am not ignorant about what invasive species can do, but I am curious as to what, exactly, the invasive Large-leaved Lupines are displacing. What measurable harm have they done? What other native species are at risk or have actually been harmed? I was just all over the roads on the North Shore and in the National and State Forests up there and saw other wildflowers and plants thriving next to and even amongst the Lupines. Does the harm they cause outweigh their attraction? They definitely lure visitors up to the North Shore area. The Lupines, themselves, have become an attraction for some people.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-11 21:50:22

Martha, the value to people is insignificant, particularly if it's only aesthetic. It's the value to the ecosystem that really matters. Virtually all of the "wildflowers" now seen along the north shore are non-native invasive species. Gone is the high diversity of native habitat, displaced by a handful of exotic species that have limited value to our native insects and other wildlife.

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