Common Name(s): Silver Dune Lupine
Scientific Name: Lupinus chamissonis
Family: Fabaceae – the Pea family
Plant Type: perennial shrub
Size: up to 6 feet fall
The lupine is a familiar flower seen throughout California. It is a part of the pea family and is a nitrogen-fixing legume. Bacteria in nodules on the roots fix the nitrogen allowing it to act as a natural fertilizer. This helps perpetuate other plants in the nutrient deficient dunes soil.
The silver dune lupine grows from 4-6 feet tall. The plant has silvery gray stems and foliage year-round. It grows along the coast, especially along the dune areas, from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It needs perfect drainage, but tolerates nutrient poor soil, sea spray, and is drought tolerant.
In the spring the plant erupts 5 inch spikes of blue to violet colored flowers producing the beautiful lupine life plant we all recognize.
The silver dune lupine attracts birds and beneficial insects to its pea shaped blossoms. During the spring caterpillars are likely found hiding in the foliage. This in addition to its ability to thrive in nutrient poor soil make it an important part of the dunes flora.
In a garden environment it tends to do poorly most often due to overwatering and too rich of a soil substrate. They can also be very susceptible to slug and snail damage when young.
You can view this species at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center Community Garden, at the Dunes Center on Guadalupe St., or in the dunes themselves. Oso Flaco Lake is a great place to view silver dune lupine in its natural setting.