Skyblue Lupine, Lupinus diffusus

Skyblue Lupine's flowers are fading in Central Florida and the fuzzy seed pods are becoming prominent yet this amazing pollinator plant is in peak bloom in North Florida. Just like the White Wild Indigo profiled last week, Skyblue Lupine is a legume, meaning it associates with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and has a certain "beany" flower shape.
Skyblue Lupine, Lupinus diffusus flowering and fruiting in Split Oak Forest March 17th, 2019. Photo © Tayler Figueroa.
Skyblue lupine has a long, sensitive taproot and likes dry soils, so is found in sandhills, scrubs, openings in xeric hammocks, and dry flatwoods. It is very difficult to transplant and grow from seed so it is not available from nurseries for your home landscape or for restoration.

It's leaves are eaten by the Frosted Elfin (Callophyris irus) butterfly, which is Listed Endangered in Florida1. It's also eaten by Grey Hairstreak (Strymon melinis) larvae, Genista Broom Moth (Uresiphita reversalis) larvae and many other butterflies and moths that use members of the Fabaceae family.

The flowers are visited by many species of bees and butterflies, but appear to be particularly significant to bumble bees (Bombus spp.).
Brown-Belted Bumble Bee (Bombus griseocollus) on Skyblue Lupine (Lupinus diffusus) in Split Oak Forest. Photo CC BY-NC Stacey Klema
Lupines are divided into two subgenera: new world lupines (Subgenus Platycarpos) and old-world lupines (Subgenus Lupinus)2. All of our Florida lupines are in the Platycarpos subgenus.

Lupines have been used for food, livestock fodder, and medicine (related: Roger Hammer on Sandhill Lupine, Lupinus cumulicola). There's still enough commercial interest in lupines that the International Lupin Conference was just held in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

Skyblue Lupine (Lupinus diffusus) in full flower in Goldhead Branch State Park, Clay County, March 2019. Photo by Susan Carr.

Please see our Skyblue Lupine Flickr album for more photos.

References

[1] Berthet, Bill. 2017. Critically Imperiled Elfins Disappearing from the Forest. Florida Native Plant Society Blog. link
[2] Kurlovich, B.S. Subgen. PLATYCARPOS (S.Wats.) Kurl.  and  Subgen. LUPINUS. Biodiversity of Lupines. link

Further Reading


Florida Native Plant Society. Lupinus diffusis Skyblue Lupine. FNPS Plant Database. link
Florida Wildflower Federation. 2019. Flower Friday - Skyblue lupine. link
Sedore, David. 2015. Skyblue Lupine. Wild South Florida Blog. link

by Valerie Anderson, staff email

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