Saving The Seed Of Giant Lupine
These are seed-saving days around here and I’ve just finished collecting and cleaning the seeds of our Giant Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), a nitrogen fixing legume in the pea family with a very neat seed dispersal method.
When the seeds are mature, and the casings have completely dried out, they snap open with a forceful spiral twist which sends the seeds flying some distance from the parent plant so they might find their own place in the sun.
The first time I collected seed from Grape Soda Lupine (Lupinus excubitus), another native lupine with the same dispersal scheme, I put the seed in a bowl on top of our refrigerator. That night when Peggy and I sat down to dinner we heard these popping sounds and noticed lupine seeds were flying all over the kitchen, so after that we covered our bowls of lupine seed with a screen like you put over the frying pan to stop grease splatter.
From the time these lupine pods begin drying you only have a few days to collect the seed before they've all dispersed.
The Lupine pictured here was started in the spring of 2004 when I planted 6 seeds that I collected in the wild. These seeds have a very hard shell, so, as an experiment, I nicked the shell of 3 seeds with a small file and planted the other 3 as is, all spaced about 6 inches apart and their places marked so I'd know which ones germinated.
Two of the nicked seeds sprouted and none of the others, but one of the sprouted plants didn't come back the second year. As you can see the other is thriving and was over four feet tall this year.
The pictures below show, from top to bottom:
1. The plant just beginning to bloom.
2. A close-up of the flowers.
3. The still green pea-like seed pods.
4. Harvested seed in a bowl before separation from the chaff.
5. Seeds, and their dry twisted pods after separating, with an old dime to give an idea of the size.
6. One of the packets of seed that are now available for locals who wish to grow Big Bear native plants.
Our one mature Giant Lupine produced over 500 seeds this season and we have two younger plants coming up now as well.
Click on individual photos to enlarge