The (typically) purple flowers of the Lupinus arcticus cluster in long spikes. The bright green leaves are long and arranged like spokes on a wheel. Drops of moisture collect at the base of the leaves to provide extra moisture to the plant.
Lupine is one of the hardiest plants – it even grows in windswept volcanic desert of central Iceland, where it was planted to prevent erosion and add nitrogen to the soil.
According to Whistler Naturalist, Jack Souther, the Nootka lupine (Lupinus nootkatensis) which is used for erosion control in Iceland, and the Arctic lupine (Lupinus arcticus) of our local mountains are closely related species of the Pea family.
“Once thought to rob the soil of its nutrients the plants were named after “lupus” the wolf. But far from robbing the soil their roots, like other members of the pea family, have nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria that add nutrients.”
The Pemberton Museum has discovered an explanation for the plethora of lupins along highway 99, which we dug up from an old newsletter, to reproduce here.
The beautiful coloured lupines that used to grow everywhere came from seeds that were grown in Holland which was a major seed producer for many flowers. During the war, the production of seeds halted and none were available in North America. Post-war demands for flower seeds en- couraged Jack Decker to enter this market, and now lupines seeding themselves year after year make a fine showing along the fences of the old Decker farm [Valleaus] ever summer. Joe Antonelli moved onto the Decker farm where these flowers were now growing wildly. There were acres of them and every Spring they flooded the field with their beautiful colours. Of course they were still producing seeds. When Joe was working on the highway construction he used to take seeds with him and then he would fill drinking straws with them. He would then put the straw in his mouth and as he drove along the road with a load of rocks or gravel he would blow through the straw and spray the seeds in the dirt at the side of the road. The next year the seeds would sprout and soon the sides of the road were lined with beautiful coloured lupines. After several years of this practice the lupines sprouted regularly when the snow departed and brought the wonderful freshness of new growth that only flowers can bring. Years later, the highways department adopted this practice of spraying flowers and grass onto new banks to pre vent erosion and to beautify the highways. It was a far cry from blowing seeds from a straw. His son, Nick, said Joe was a kind of a Johnny Lupinseed planting these beautiful flowers throughout the land.