Lupins have been a popular plant as far back as Egyptian times. They were cultivated by the Romans who used them for food ( the lupinus albus (Linn.) variety ) and have spread all over the world. It is used in many European countries for fodder and fertiliser, though most species have highly poisonous seeds. They can contain high volumes of toxic alkaloids.

There are over 200 hundred species in the genus Lupinus which includes annual, biennial and perennial versions of the plant. The most common ancestor of the lupin genus is Lupinus polyphyllus Lindl.

Lupins are leguminous and thus are extremely good at fixing nitrogen into the soil, in fact they are one of the best legumes in this matter. The Lupin has a long spike of blue, purple, red, orange, yellow and white flowers. Most of the flowers are gradated versions of these colours and have bi-colour variations. The leaves consist of many leaflets connected to a central point. Many of the species have finely haired leaves.

All varieties grow well in good sunlight and in sandy/acidic soil and although they are extensively cultivated, they are often found wild where it is warm enough for them to survive.

Some of the more common annual species:

Lupinus bicolor : A short spiked version with blue/pink/white flowers.
Lupinus vallicola : A dwarf lupin with very dense blue and white flowers.
Lupinus albus : A white flowered European variety the seeds of which are edible .
Lupinus angustifolius : A variety with very thin leaflets which can be used as fodder due to it's low alkaloid content. Blue flowered.

Lupinus polyphyllus Russell hybrids ( a perennial variety ) are good for gardens which need a tall and perhaps colourful backdrop.

Lupins as a whole rarely breed true and this means that if you wish to keep a plant true then you must propagate it in isolated conditions .


http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/l/lupins50.html
Annuals and Biennials, Roger Phillips et al, MacMillan, 1999

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