Prairie Lupine (Lupinus lepidus) Global: G5 Provincial: S1 COSEWIC: E, BC List: Red
Note on Taxonomy for Lupinus Lepidus: Prairie lupine, a member of the Fabaceae (pea) family is also referred to as Pacific lupine (E-Flora, USDA Plants Database). It is generally the only recognized form of prairie lupine in Canada (COSEWIC 2009).
Distribution: Elevations: 0-420 m In the Pacific Northwest prairie lupine occurs west of the Cascades in Oregon, Washington and the southeastern portion of Vancouver Island. Its historic distribution on southeastern Vancouver Island was in association with Coastal Douglas fir/Garry oak ecosystems just north of Duncan, south to Oak Bay and west to Langford (COSEWIC 2009), Its current range is restricted to two populations in the Sooke hills area of Langford and Metchosin (GOERT 2008, COSEWIC 2009, BCCDC 2010). National Herbarium of Canada records indicate occurrences from the eastern portion of the Lower Fraser Valley on the Lower Mainland (E-Flora 2010), however these were likely misidentifications (COSEWIC 2009).
Description: Height 200-450 mm A perennial herb, multiple stems arise from a thick, woody stem-base. The flower spikes and leaves may be erect or lay somewhat flat along ground. Stems are slender and covered in fine white hairs giving them a silky-textured appearance. Leaves are found mainly at the base of the stems on 100-160 mm stalks divided into 6-10 lobes that diverge from a central point and fold upward. As with stems leaves are covered in fine hairs and appear somewhat silky in texture. The flowers similar in composition to other members of the pea family are arranged in whorls along a terminal spike ranging from 10-160 mm long. The 10-13 mm long flowers are blue, light purple or sometimes white. As with other lupines, the fruit takes the form of stiff dark hairy pods. Pods are 100-300 mm in length, containing 2-4 seeds each. (GOERT 2008, COSEWIC 2009).
Look’s Like? As a perennial only associated with Garry oak ecosystems in BC prairie lupine has a distinct woody base and shorter, sparser flower spikes and leaves which spread horizontally along the ground in a circular basal pattern. Most other lupine species occur in higher elevation areas or are introduced ornamental varieties (BCCDC 2010, GOERT 2008). Other species of annual and perennial lupine such as dense-flowered lupine and Kincaid’s lupine overlap in distribution in the Pacific northwest and have some similar attributes and may be mistaken for L. lepidus through casual observation. However Kincaid’s, the only other native lupine to historically overlap with this species is believed extirpated from BC.
Primary Habitat: This species is associated with very dry exposed aspects of rocky well-drained shallow soils found in association with Garry oak woodlands and meadows. This species grows with a variety of shrub species (snowberry, oceanspray and Oregon grape) as well as herbs and forbs (fescues, and Coastal Douglas fir. Populations in BC occur in proximity to or on wind-swept hilltops with gently sloping terrain or ledges in steeply sloping terrain. Associated species include Roemer’s fescue, dune bentgrass, long-stoloned sedge as well as mosses and lichens (GOERT 2008, COSEWIC 2009).
Secondary Habitat: A few sites have early-season seepage.
Critical Features: Seasonal drought and or very well-drained soils with little or no shade competition from other species seem to be key habitat requirements for prairie lupine. The two remaining populations of prairie lupine occur in locations that lack the usual suite of invasive species (GOERT 2008, COSEWIC 2009).
Seasonal Life Cycle
Scarification (abrasion) of seeds enhances germination success. Seed set is high (60-70%) in medium to large plants but low (0-10%) in small plants.
Habitat Guild: Garry Oak woodlands, inland and marine bluffs, rock outcroppings and seeps.
The preferred ecological associations of this species are geographically limited and subject to urban development and associated habitat loss
Disturbance, trampling and picking from outdoor recreation activities.
Competition for nutrients and shading from associated vascular plants and subsequently expansion of other more shade tolerant species.
Fire suppression has led to increased spread and encroachment of competitive plant species (i.e. shrubs) including native and introduced species.
Key Conservation & Management Objectives
Assess actual level and extent of threats to existing populations.
A targeted inventory is needed to determine if undiscovered populations exist elsewhere within the Coast Region. Conduct outreach to raise awareness of this species and how to identify it to improve distribution knowledge
Monitor existing populations on an ongoing basis to assess viability and reduce potential disturbance from land use activities.
Where suitable habitat occurs, work with land managers and land owners to ensure development or recreational activities do not disturb or encroach on sensitive areas.
This species produces numerous seeds, suitable areas need to be identified for reintroduction or population enhancement
Prevent the introduction and spread of invasive plants, especially aggressive competitors like Scotch broom and Himalayan blackberry, which can be difficult to control once they are established. When controlling invasive plants, take precautions to minimize disturbance.
Meet objectives for this species and the conservation of its habitat as set out in the “COSEWIC Assessment and Update Status Report on the Prairie Lupine Lupinus Lepidus in Canada and Species at Risk in Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems in British Columbia. 2008. Lupinus Lepidus. Further applications for identification and protection of critical habitat may found in association with species described in the “Recovery Strategy for Multi-Species at Risk in Garry Oak Woodlands in Canada.
Sightings, specimens, or observations of activities threatening its habitat should be reported to the regional Species at Risk Biologist at the Ministry of Environment office.
Main References/Literature Cited
COSEWIC. 2009. COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Prairie Lupine Lupinus Lepidus in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. vi + 34 pp.
Species at Risk in Garry Oak and Associated Ecosystems in British Columbia. 2008. Lupinus lepidu. Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team
International Forest Products Limited and BC Ministry of Environment. 2003. A Field Guide to Species at Risk in the Coast Forest Region of British Columbia
Develop With Care: Environmental Guidelines for Urban and Rural Land Development in British Columbia.
BC Species & Ecosystems Explorer (BC Conservation Data Center Summary Report)
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada
E-Flora Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia
USDA, NRCS. 2010. The PLANTS Database
Prairie Lupine: Rod Gilbert
Prairie Lupine inset: Calypso Orchid Flickr
Kincaid’s Lupine: Rod Gilbert
Habitat: Calypso Orchid Flickr
Disclaimer: This species account and related conservation recommendations are draft only and presently under review and subject to change.