Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wild Lupine: Oak Openings Spring Fireworks Show

Continuing on with my trip up to the northwestern quarter of Ohio this past weekend, I was able to mark off another botanical event that had eluded me for a number of years much like that of the federally threatened lakeside daisies I recently posted about.  There is a certain must-see event that occurs each late-spring in the famed Oak Openings region of Ohio that could impress even the most novice of nature goers.

Sandy meadow full of wild lupine in full, spectacular bloom 

Blooming fantastically throughout the sand dunes, open oak savannas, and dry barrens of the Oak Openings was the rare wild lupine (Lupinus perennis) with its electric blue-purple flowers set perfectly against the lush green color of its lacy, palmately compounded leaves.  Come this time of the year certain can't-miss spots in the area come alive with their stunning firework shows that are alone worth the drive up to the Toledo area.

Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Local state nature preserves and parks like Kitty Todd, Lou Campbell, Melkie Savanna, and the Oak Openings metro park all have their own splendid displays of this legume that won't disappoint if you time it right!  The past few years have found your blogger arriving a week or so too late for the prime display and instead finding their hairy fruits maturing with only a few flowering heads in decent shape here and there.

Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Fortunately, that was not the case this year as my visit to the area for the lakeside daisies and other botanical fascinations coincided just right with the wild lupine show.  I can't think of any other Ohio indigenous wildflower that captures the essence and beauty of blue like the lupines do.  They break bud an almost periwinkle color before maturing to a darker blue hue touched with purple.

Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)

It's hard to believe a plant as exquisite as the lupine would grow and thrive in such a harsh environment but there they are growing right up out of the sand dunes like it's nothing.  Wild lupines have a strong affinity for open, dry, well-drained and sandy soils so it comes as little surprise they make their greatest stand in the Oak Openings where its preferred habitat occurs in spades.

Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Much like the scarlet indian paintbrush I blogged about earlier this month, the Lupinus genus is much more diverse and known out west where dozens upon dozens of species occur in a varying array of habitats.  Here in the east there are only a few native species with two calling the Gulf and/or Atlantic coastal states home and the third the wide-ranging species featured in this post.

Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)

A closer look at the flowering stem reveals the true beauty of the wild lupine.  It's easy to see they hail from the legume (Fabaceae) family with their characteristic pea-like flowers and seed pods (think soybean).  Due to a fantastic management plan the Oak Openings region has implemented with regular burn cycles, this species has thrived due to a more open habitat with less woody plants to out-compete and be shaded out by.

Wild lupine (Lupinus perennis)

This past weekend certainly had a theme to it of finally seeing things I had longed to observe and photograph for quite some time but had just never accomplished or had the timing right.  First the lakeside daisies, then these wonderfully colored lupine, and one other item that I have saved for last and will share with you in the next post.  I will give you one hint: what do I love to talk about and post on here more than any other botanically themed item? Stay tuned!


  1. Andrew, your posts bring us right into your world. You really need to consider publishing a book about your travels--you are an eloquent and gifted writer.