Lupinus nanus (“Sky Lupine”, “Field Lupine”, “Dwarf Lupin” or “Douglas’ Annual Lupine”), is a species in the Fabaceae (Legume) family native to the western United States. It grows abundantly in chaparral clearings and along slopes in California, Nevada, and eastern Oregon.
Plants Profile for Lupinus nanus (sky lupine) – USDA PLANTS
Kingdom Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Family Fabaceae ⁄ Leguminosae – Pea family
Genus Lupinus L. – lupine
Species Lupinus nanus Douglas ex Benth. – sky lupine
Sky lupine is the low-growing annual lupine that turns the flanks of Mt. Tamalpais blue in the spring, and many, many other parts of California as well. It is often found growing with California poppies and is almost as frequently seen. It also persists along roadcuts growing by itself, even in a dry year.
It is a host plant for the Painted Lady butterfly.
Lupinus means “wolf.’ Since lupines and others of the Pea family (Legumes) are nitrogen-fixing, they can grow on quite barren soil where most other plants can’t survive. Apparently those who named these plants thought that the soil was barren because the lupine were stealing (wolfing up) the nutrients from the soil, the way wolves ‘stole’ from their flocks. They didn’t realize that, in fact, the plants were creating their own fertilizer and making it possible for other plants to grow in subsequent seasons. Nanus means ‘dwarf.’ David Douglas was a British horticulturalist and explorer who made three collecting trips to America in the 1820’s and 1830’s. Many flowers and the Douglas fir are named for him.