Lupinus perennis (Wild Lupine)

Plant Info
Also known as: Sundial Lupine
Family:Fabaceae (Pea)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy soil, fields, prairies, edges of woods
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:8 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
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] Flowers are in a spike-like cluster to 8 inches long. Individual flowers are ¾ to 1 inch long and a typical pea-shape, on a short stalk. The lower parts of the flower are blue. The upper parts may be blue, or two-tone blue and purple, or blue and white. Both upper and lower parts have many darker blue veins running through them. The lower parts are forced open by insects to reveal a horn-shaped stamen. One plant has multiple spikes.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: compound Leaf type: palmate

[photo of leaves] Leaves are divided into 7 to 11 leaflets, radiating from a central point at the end of a long stalk. Leaflets are hairy, up to 2 inches long and ½ inch wide, have rounded tips, often with a small sharp point at the apex, and taper at the base. Stems are hairy to varying degrees and may become smooth with age.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] The seed pod is up to 2 inches long, hairy, shaped like a typical pea pod, and turns black when mature. Each pod contains 2 to several seeds.


Wild Lupine is the only host plant for the Karner Blue butterfly caterpillar. Habitat loss has led to the decline in plants, and put the Karner Blue on the endangered species list. At Wild River State Park efforts have been made to increase the Lupine population, as Karner Blues have been seen just across the St. Croix River in Wisconsin. I wish them success. A similar species in Minnesota is Large-leaved Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), a non-native introduced by gardeners which has become invasive especially along the north shore of Lake Superior. It is overall a larger plant with taller spikes and 9 to 17 leaflets.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in a private garden in Anoka County.


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

Posted by: Jeanie - st.louis county
on: 2010-06-19 13:03:46

I was wondering if the lupin plant looked the same in Boulevard California as it does in Minnesota?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-06-20 01:22:08

There are two species of lupine in MN, one native to MN and another native to the western US, but not MN. The latter has been planted around the state, though, mostly in northern counties, as I understand it. You may see that in St Louis county more than the native variety.

Posted by: Kelsey - Tofte
on: 2010-07-02 18:36:17

I was just wondering what is the difference between wild/blue lupine the kind that is the host plant for the blue karner butterfly versus purple lupine the invasive species? can you tell the difference between the appearance? does anyone know the scientific names?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2010-07-02 20:53:33

The other lupine that is especially widespread in NE MN is Lupinus polyphyllus. The DNR does not recognize it as native though some sources would have you believe otherwise.

Its leaves are arranged in a palmate cluster like Lupinis perennis, but leaflets are larger and sharply pointed at the tip, and there tend to be more of them. The flower color also ranges from near white to shocking pink to purple, and the spikes grow taller.

If you saw them side by side you'd see the differences immediately.

Posted by: Garret - Le Sueur
on: 2012-07-08 18:20:52

I am thinking of planting these in a 3/4 acre plot as a nitrogen fixing plant. I have read differing opinions as to the best time to plant. Does lupine do best when planted early spring or early fall? Is there a reference I can check for additional information?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2012-07-08 18:25:34

Garret, if you're planting seed, I suggest following the instructions provided by the seed vendor, assuming it's someone specializing in natives.

Posted by: Brett - Otsego
on: 2013-06-17 18:45:53

If you would like to see a huge bloom of these plants visit the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge along the driving route. It is blooming right now! 6/17/13

Posted by: Jane - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2014-10-14 17:23:03

Lupinus perennis is difficult for me to grow. I may have overwatered some of them as seedlings. I have planted some small plugs in both sunny and part-shade locations in my very sandy soil, so one would think it would work out. Of the seven plugs I planted back in July, one is doing okay and has a nice mound of healthy leaves, three still look the same size they were when I planted them as plugs, and the other three have died. Rabitts gnawed on the the plants when they were newly planted, but some cat hair helped deter them. Unfortunately, I think the cat hair drew some other kind of animal. I discovered four piles of mysterious whitish tan scat near the cat hair. Both foxes, coyotes, and neighbor's outdoor cats are known to roam the neighborhood, so who knows. Hopefully, you'll have better luck gardening with Lupinus Perennis than I do. I can't tell if my plants are big enough/hardy enough to survive this coming winter. I don't expect it, but it would be awesome to someday see a Karner Blue butterfly appear.

Posted by: Rebecca - Byron
on: 2016-05-18 09:30:30

I am a teacher working on rehabing our school's prairie restoration/butterfly garden. We may have to shift away from the prairie a bit. Is this plant self seeding?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2016-05-18 11:33:54

Rebecca, this species spreads both vegetatively and by seed.

Posted by: Sarah - Saint Paul
on: 2016-06-07 23:35:51

Trying to create butterfly garden. What does lupine need to grow? Sun? Dry? Heat? Thank you I have two small plants to get in the ground ASAP.

Posted by: Sharon K
on: 2017-06-19 11:45:00

We plan to come up to duluth this week (June 19, 2017) to see the lupine on the way to Two Harbors. Is it in bloom now??? Last summer we came in mid july and it was all done....please let me know. thank You.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-06-19 13:40:13

Sharon, FYI you have the wrong lupine - the species growing along roadsides on the north shore is the invasive Lupinus polyphyllus (native to western US, not MN), not the MN native L. perennis. Yeah, it's pretty, but doesn't belong there.

Posted by: Bev D
on: 2017-07-13 02:26:35

I live in north western Minn. I planted Lupine last fall and have not seen the plant yet. Could it take longer for the plant to appear? I also planted packages of other wild flowers and they are blooming beautiful.

Posted by: Debra h - Ottertail
on: 2017-07-26 13:14:19

The pea pos look like edamame. Can you eat them

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