Lupinus spp.

Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae [Leguminosae]
Family Description: Pea

Key Characteristics:
Also known as Bluebonnet
  • palmately compound with 3 to 17 leaflets
  • blue, white, pink, yellow or violet colored flowers in terminal racemes which may be verticillate or scattered;
  • calyx usually bilabiate, with a short, asymmetrical tube often saccate or spurred;
  • often subtended by small deciduous bractlets;
  • corolla bilabiate with three types of petals one banner, two wing petals, and two petals fused into a keel (like a boat prow);
  • all petals free at the base, but the 2 wing petals may be conivent (appear fused) terminally, the two keel petals always fused terminally;
  • 10 stamens are fused by their filaments into a tube;
  • anthers dimorphic alternating large and smaller.
  • a hairy, flattened, legume containing 2-12 smooth, often mottled seeds, often restricted between the seeds.

General Description:
33 species or varieties are listed for Idaho. Annual, biennial or perennial herbs (sometimes shrubs in other areas); leaves alternate, palmately compound with 3-17 leaflets; papilionaceous, blue, white, pink, yellow, or violet colored flowers in terminal racemes; calyx 2-lipped sometimes saccate or spurred; banner broad, with reflexed margins and a median groove; wings curved, often fused terminally, often enclosing the keel; keel sickle or boat-shaped; 10 stamens fused by their filaments ( monadelphous), the anthers alternately larger and smaller; fruit a flat, hairy legume opening along two sutures.

Common throughout North America, but found on all continents except Australia

Dry sage brush habitat to moist woodlands at most elevations

Economically important because many species are cultivated as ornamentals while some are used as sand binders along coastlines; many provide high protein food for animals; in some areas cultivated as nutritious fodder. Native Americans ate some with extensive preparations which rendered them less toxic.
The principle ingredient is a bitter glycoside lupinin, which when boiled with dilute acids is decomposed into lupigenin and a fermentable glucose. A carbohydrate similar to dextrin has been found in some species; bruised seeds of some species soaked in water has been used as external application to sores and internally as an anthelmintic, diuretic and emmenagogue.
Even though they are a member of a family which has many edible and nutritious members, they should be regarded as poisonous to both livestock and Homo sapiens. However, the native Americans steamed the leaves or roasted the roots. A tea was made from the seeds and used as a curative. They yield gold or yellow hues if a mordant such as alum, chrome, copper, tin is used, or tan if iron is used

Important State References:
No information available at this time
Photos and Information written by Dr. Karl E. Holte,© 2002