Habit: a lovely, low growing perennial typically forming dense mats of silky hairy foliage and topped with little clusters of fleshy purple flowers. Pacific lupine’s multiple stems grow about 1 foot tall, and bear long leafstalks from which compound palmate leaves spring in a very attractive pattern. At the end of each leafstalk, there are as many as 9 small, lance-shaped leaflets arranged in a circle, their margins are folded up conspicuously. Leaf color is green, but silky or sometimes rusty hairs make it appear silvery or tawny. Its blue to purplish pea-like flowers bloom from early to late summer and produce tiny, hairy seed pods.
Ecology: commonly inhabits open meadows and gravelly alpine or subalpine slopes, in moist to arid climates. It can be found in Alaska and from British Columbia to Oregon, at both sides of the Cascade Range.
Growing conditions: enjoys full sun and well-drained, rocky soils. It is a very adaptable plant, able to endure tough, dry or sandy habitats. Several varieties have derived from this species due to pressures present across its different habitats. L. lepidus var. lobbii, for example, is a charming dwarf plant that can be found in talus slopes and rock ridges, whereas L. lepidus var. aridus, is common in dry, gravelly soils east of the Cascades.
Lupinus Lepidus is member of the Fabaceae family, and a nitrogen-fixer pioneer. Following the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, this species was the first one to colonize the barren landscape. Its effects in the soil, not only helps other native species to come back, but also inhibit the growth of species considered invasive in some areas, such as Anaphalis margaritaceas and Epilobium angustifolium.