Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday's Wildflower: Skyblue Lupine

Lupinus cumulicola
Text and photo by Roger L. Hammer 




From January to May each year the white sand scrub on the Lake Wales Ridge in Lake, Osceola, Polk, and Highlands Counties are adorned with the cheery blue flowers of the Florida endemic skyblue lupine (pronounced LOO-PIN). 

Some botanists consider it a synonym of Lupinus diffusus , but others argue that L. diffuses differs by its habitat, range, prostrate to decumbent stems, orbicular-reniform (kidney-shaped) standard, and a nearly straight beak on the pods. 

The stems of Lupinus cumulicola are usually erect with gray-green, silky pubescent, elliptic leaves that average 2”–3” long and about 1” wide. The pods have a curved beak.

Lupinus is taken from lupus, or “wolf,” and alludes to the curious belief that these plants consumed soil fertility, when, in fact, they improve the soil with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The species name cumulicola means “dweller on a heap or mound,” in this case, sand. It comes from the same root word for cumulus clouds that form billowing mounds in the sky. The seeds of some species were used in ancient Greece as a hallucinogen to psychoactively prepare people to commune with the dead.

The plant photographed was growing on a hill of white sand right alongside US27 in Polk County in mid-January 2015. When in flower, it’s hard to miss. Bees are the principal pollinator.


Roger is a member of the FNPS Dade Chapter and is currently working on a new Falcon Guide titled Complete Guide to Florida Wildflowers, due to be released in Spring 2018. His other wildflower guides include Florida Keys Wildflowers  (2004), Everglades Wildflowers (2nd edition, 2014), and Central Florida Wildflowers (2016).

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