Late Lupine


Photo by Theodore Fasing

Some of you may have noticed that the Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary volunteer day has been postponed and are probably wondering why. No, it’s not because of a scheduling error or bad weather. It is in fact because the wild lupine seeds have not developed fully. During the volunteer day, participants will collect wild lupine seeds and scatter them in parts of the sanctuary where lupine is sparse or absent. Since the seeds aren’t ready to be dispersed, the event was postponed.

“The window for collecting lupine seed is pretty small,” said MNA Western Regional Stewardship Organizer, Matt Schultz. “If you pick the pods too early, the seeds will not have finished developing. If you wait too long, the pods will explode and you will have missed your chance to collect them.”

Wild lupine, or sundial, is the larval host to the threatened karner blue butterfly. The karner blue’s larvae feed solely on wild lupine, so it is vital to increase the density of this plant population. The karner blue butterfly is a federally listed endangered species and is a threatened species in Michigan. While the karner blue population was once widespread from Maine to Minnesota, it now only has small populations in a few states due to fire suppression and habitat loss for both the butterfly and the plant.

Lupinus perennis L. is in the bean family (Fabaceae) and is an herbaceous perennial, meaning only part of the plant dies at the end of the growing season. The roots stay alive throughout the rest of the year and the plant grows back every spring. Wild lupine flowers can be blue, pink or white.

Lupine 2

Photo by Theodore Fasing

Wild lupine has always been an important Michigan plant. It was used by the Menomimi Indians in upper Michigan and Wisconsin to feed their horses because they believed it made them “spirited and full of fire.” The Cherokee also used wild lupine as a cold remedy.

The 80 acre Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary also has a unique history.  It is part of what was once Michigan’s 19,000 acre dry sand prairie. Only four percent of Michigan’s sand prairie is now left.

The date of the volunteer day at Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary is still undecided, so keep checking back to the events calendar on our website to see when the event will be held.

  1. USDA, NRCS. 2010. The PLANTS Database. 21 June 2010. <>.

1 thought on “Late Lupine

  1. MNA Update: Game-time decision

    MNA Western Regional Stewardship Organizer Matt Schultz said the decision to collect lupine pods and scatter them in Karner Blue Nature Sanctuary before they released their seeds ran up to the buzzer.

    That’s the reason why a volunteer day wasn’t scheduled—seeds need to be white with a hard shell and sometimes exhibit a black pod color when they become ripe. Trying to time harvests so enough time is left to transport them to a scatter site before they naturally open and release their seeds is tricky.

    “That is part of what makes this project challenging,” Matt said.

    With the window of time looming, about five quarts of lupine pods were harvested by MNA members Chuck Vannette and Jimmy Overzet on June 19 and scattered on a section of the preserve.

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