The Lupin’s Ambiguous Beauty


Drifting down hillsides and along the edge of highways, in wild meadows and domestic gardens, spikes of lupin spread rich gifts of purple, pink, white or yellow. These ones were beside our campsite near the summit of Allison Pass.

Like the cheery yellow buttercups I wrote of earlier, the lupin’s beauty is deceptive.

Although popular as ornamental garden plants, many varieties can also become invasive weeds.  Lupinus is a genus in the legume family, and fixes nitrogen from the air to fertilize the soil for nitrogen-loving crops like broccoli, cucumbers, spinach and squash. In the wild that excess of nitrogen can cause the demise of many native plants that would otherwise grow in the poorer soil. With their full range of essential amino acids, lupins in some locales are even being grown as an alternative to soy. A couple species are cultivated as forage, but at the same time, lupin seeds infected with a particular fungus, can poison livestock.

Ambiguous beauty. It reminds me of red herrings in mystery stories – seemingly innocuous objects or comments that are seen as helpful clues in a crime, but they mislead.

Despite their negative aspects, I can’t bring myself to dislike lupins. I still nurture a few plants in an unruly corner of one garden bed. When they bloom, their beauty brightens an otherwise dull spot near the edge of the woods. A flash of azure and indigo, sometimes a hint of white.  Surely a whim of God brought them. Surely it can’t hurt to let them stay.

Do you have flowering weeds or wildflowers that grow unbidden in your garden? Do you root them up, or let them be? Why?

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Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land. [Solomon 2:12]


The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice,
and blossom as the rose. [Isaiah 35:1]


 The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart. [1 Samuel 16:7b]

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