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Trailer Park Shorties – Roadside Bicolors

Lupinus bicolor: tough little cuties perfectly at home next to a hot compacted gravel road.

We’re tiny cuties you can find along quite a few country roads all across the west coast. Like many lupines, we can take some tough growing conditions. But you wish they all could be bicolor girls, don’t I know it. ;) Once they get a look at our teeny blue-bottom buds and white caps, it’s love- the kind you have to break hard for and pull over to the shoulder to catch a better look at. We do require a close hard look, being only about 6” tall (or 14 cm for you sexy-accent European types, I see you stud muffin). But we are a spunky handful of fun. We’ll leave the roadside better too, adding a little nitrogen just like our other legume cousins do, always helping out when we can.


We do live fast and die young, only making it through a spring and early summer, but leave a beautiful peach-fuzz soft seed pod behind with the next year’s babes. And next spring you’ll see a mini carpet of furry little babes sprouting up to eventually become a poofy low mat topped with blue and white (hint hint- hence the name) flower spikes.

Bend that neck boys, we’re down here! You can see why the call me “miniature lupine”, right?

I’m not just attracting those mudflap rough rider boys, the gentler local pollinators like me too. Not to brag, but hey… let’s brag! From bumblebees, smaller solitary bees, fluttering butterflies, and even zooming hummers (the birds, not vehicles), I’m a tiny pollinator buffet. Even a few butterflies like to lay their eggs on my leaves for their own babies to take a nibble. Better be fast ya Arrowhead lil‘pillers, munch away. You too, babes of the orange sulphurs, gray hairstreaks, Shasta blues, and painted ladies- eat up.


by aecole2010: "painted lady caterpillar nest on lupine"

by Ilia Ustyantsev: "Noctuidae sp. (larva)"


Speaking of eating, did you know I’m one of the few lupines that’s edible for people? Some folks from the indigenous North American tribes would roast my little tap roots to eat with oolichan grease, coming from a smelt-like fish, (doesn’t that sound tasty AND health!). Some persons eat my leaves for fresh greens, those not eaten up by the caterpillars that is. And folks even dried my roots into a sort of cake called “black bear’s tails” to save for winter snacking. I guess I can’t really be mad about my roots going to such fine treats. I go with the flow- everyone’s gotta eat.

Them colors will also tell ya that I’m ready for some fertilization.

Find my sprawling low carpets dotted blue & white in the open sunny and especially disturbed native areas that are tough on other wildflowers. Them colors will also tell ya that I’m ready for some fertilization, bursting with pollen and a dab of nectar to entice my flying visitors in for a taste.


Once I’ve had the services I want, I blush my top banner petal’s white patch with a rosy purple color to show that flower’s buffet pans are empty. Bees need not waste their time sniffing around the darker flowers. You may be surprised to hear that I don’t really need these visits. I’m a modern type of flower, able to self-fertilize and get my reproductive business taken care of all on my own.



My hardy roadside pal the California poppy knows me well and how to survive in the tough gravely worlds. We can often be found hanging together, basking in the hot sun and soaking photons in. We make a cute color-contrasted pair with her bright glowing orange and my cool rich blues & dabs of white. She don't mind my extra serving of nitrogen going into our soil either, that lush... She does make her own cup ya know.

by tdlucas5000: "Poppies and Friends"

I know I seem small, but I have quite the “arm” when it comes to flinging my seeds. The force I heave them away from my dried split pods can send them 20 feet. Sure some may end up IN the road, but maybe a tire will take my babes off even further to new gravely pull-outs to park their first radicle root in. They won’t be any more lonesome further away, since by the time they emerge with the early fall rains, I’ll be long dried up and done after my single season of happy hardy life. YOLO!

Live fast, fix nitrogen while ya can, and dry up still fuzzy and adorable, right?

Works for me. Maybe that’s why I’m getting into Arizona now, maybe introduced by some roaming rogue. But if I can survive there, then ain’t that something to brag about?


A gal’s gotta keep moving on done the road, whether it’s gravel or a 4 lane highway.



 

References:

http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/f2013/lila_tara/interactions.htm


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