Lupines are symbolic of the imagination. The name "lupinus" actually means "of wolves" due to the mistaken belief that ancient peoples had that lupines robbed the soil of nutrients. The fact is that lupines actually add nitrogen to the soil.
In the United States, lupines grow well in the Pacific Northwest, the West Coast, New England and other northern states. They are both cultivated flowers and wildflowers. Lupines also grow abundantly throughout Europe and as far north as Norway.
There are many varied uses for lupines. The flowers are useful for dyeing cloth. The seeds are said to aid digestion and have been used in skin care for removing spots from the face. The Romans used the flat seeds for theater money. The Romans also used lupines for fertilizer and ate the high-protein seeds.
Wild lupines are the only foods for the Karner blue butterfly caterpillar. The larvae crawl up the stems of wild lupines to feed on the new leaves in mid-April. The Karner blue butterfly is a member of the genus Lycaeides. It has a wingspan of about 2.5 cm, or one inch. The upper surface of the male is blue, with a black edge and white outer fringe. The female is similar but more brown or grayish in color, with a row of dark spots with orange crescents along the wing margins. The underside of both male and female Karner blue butterflies are similar: a slate gray background with several marginal rows of orange and black spots.
Lupines come in blue, pink, white, yellow and purple. The scent from lupine blossoms is like that of honey, a nice addition to any garden. The magnificent flower spikes can be from 36-60 inches high. Lupines need full sun, rich soil and lots of moisture. They can grow in poor soils if the soil is not too alkaline. Add some imagination to your garden with a full array of colorful, stately lupines!