Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Sundial Lupine - Lupinus perennis   L.
Members of Fabaceae:
Members of Lupinus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Fabales » Family Fabaceae
DistributionPresent over most of the Coastal Plain, but absent in the far eastern and northeastern counties; known east to Gates, Chowan, Beaufort, and Craven counties. Also ranges barely into the eastern edge of the Piedmont. A collection from a roadside at a high elevation in Avery County is correctly identified, but is certainly not a natural site and is not mapped here; it does range into the Appalachians south to central VA, but it is absent in that state's southern mountains. A correct photo from Swain County on iNaturalist also is not mapped owing to a lack of legitimate records nearby (and not known from TN). NOTE: these montane records need vetting, as they may well be L. polyphyllus, widely used in the horticultural trade.

This species has an extremely odd range, covering much of the eastern part of North America, but with major holes. It ranges from ME west to MN, and south to northern FL and eastern TX. However, it ranges though much of the Great Lakes states and in the Appalachians south only to western VA, but yet it is essentially absent in KY, TN, and the western halves of NC and SC. Why a species would range south in the mountains only to VA and not farther south, but yet occur in the hottest parts of NC, SC, and GA in the Coastal Plain, defies logic!
AbundanceDeclining somewhat strongly in the state. Formerly probably fairly common over most of its NC range, but now owing to fire suppression, logging, development, and other factors, it is mostly uncommon to infrequent, at best, in its Coastal Plain range; very rare in the eastern Piedmont edge. In the Sandhills region and the area to the southeast, where L. diffusus also occurs, L. perennis is much less common than that species, even though the range map would not suggest this. The editors feel that the existing S3S4 rank is too liberal and suggest a rarer S2S3 State Rank.
HabitatThis is a species of dry and usually sandy soils, most typically found in Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris) sandhills. However, it also occurs in openings in sandy upland woods, along roadbanks, woodland edges, and other dry or sandy soil. It has fared poorly with fire suppression in its range.
PhenologyBlooms in April and May, and fruits from June to July.
IdentificationThis is one of the easiest plants in NC to identify. It is an erect lupine, but with a short stem a few inches high, where a handful of unique leaves emerge. Each leaf has a petiole about 2-3 inches long, and the leaf blade is a palmately-divided one with 7-11 leaflets radiating outward. Each leaflet is oblanceolate (wider near the tip) and about 2 inches long and 1/4-inch wide -- almost resembling a pinwheel. At the top of the stem is the inflorescence, which rises about 1 foot tall; it is a narrow raceme of deep blue to medium blue flowers, each about 1/2-inch long. The effect of the "pinwheel" leaves and the rich blue flower cluster make this one of the showiest of the state's wildflowers, sadly in decline in recent decades. In the southern part of the Coastal Plain, you will encounter Blue Sandhill Lupine (L. diffusus) many more times than you will L. perennis; farther north, where the latter is absent, it may still take some effort to find it by working sandy sites. It is probably most easily found on the Chowan Sand Banks in Gates and Chowan counties.
Taxonomic CommentsThere are several named taxa within this species. Weakley (2018) lists only the nominate subspecies -- L. perennis ssp. perennis -- as the one here.

Other Common Name(s)Wild Lupine
State RankS3S4 [S2S3]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
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Chris HelmsCarolina Beach State Park New HanoverPhoto_natural
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