Monday, February 20, 2012
Out of Season Wildflowers: Lupinus formosus (Summer Lupine)
Summer Lupine, Lupinus formosus, is a member of the pea family. This one is blooming really early, typically blooming from April through August. There was only one in bloom and no others in sight (or perhaps one other very young plant). The early blooms are probably due to the somewhat warmer Winter weather this year. Note, identifying Lupines is a little dicey without getting in behind the wings (petals) to get a close look at the keel (lip structure), which I didn't do; hence, if you want to suggest a different species, I'm open to suggestions...
Also note, Lupinus formosus is widespread throughout California. Unfortunately, it is poisonous, containing piperidine alkaloids (as does hemlock). The younger the plant, the more toxic it is. It has been implicated in congenital issues in goats and cows and has therefore been the subject of eradication by some farmers. That being said, it is also one of only three Lupine species that the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly will lay eggs/develop upon.