The lupine is a type of flowering legume that can be grown all over the world. Lupines grow in tall spires with several different colors, and there are hundreds of variations of lupines that you can find in your garden and backyard.
Chances are you’ve probably seen them countless times, but have you ever thought about their deep meaning and symbolism?
What Does Lupine Mean?
You’ll be able to find dozens of types of lupines in your local garden store, most of them created by the horticulturalist George Russell. Russel began breeding Lupines and creating different colored varieties in the early 1900s. His hybrids also produced plants that are colorful and have dense flowery stalks.
One of the most common varieties of Lupines is the bluebonnet. The Texas state flower isn’t a flower at all, but it’s a lupine. It was called the bluebonnet whenever Texas lawmakers named it as the state flower.
Golden lupine is one of the most beautiful lupine types and can be grown in any region with enough sunlight. The patches of beautiful yellow flowers can grow up to three feet tall and look stunning in any garden.
The lupine flower’s name sounds a lot like the word for wolf, lupus, in Latin. The history of the lupine’s name goes back to the Europeans who first interacted with it. They saw that lupines grow in very poor soil and didn’t have other plants around them. Since they lived in these areas alone, the Europeans thought that they were stealing nutrients from the ground.
They called the flower Lupine after their word for wolf, comparing the plant to the thieving animal. Of course, modern gardeners found that Lupines don’t take from the soil; they add to it. Lupines take nitrogen from the air and then send it down into the soil, making the earth more fertile.
What Do Lupines Symbolize?
In addition to their symbolism related to wolves and the moon, lupines are often used to symbolize voraciousness (or a general hunger for life) and admiration.
Not only that, but lupines can symbolize happiness. These flowers symbolize a positive outlook and new opportunity as well. These meanings are consistent among all colors of the flower, including blue and purple.
What is the Cultural Significance of a Lupine?
Lupines aren’t just beautiful flowers, but they are also viewed as a food source by some cultures. The various seeds have been used for over 6,000 years in the Andes and the Mediterranean. While they aren’t as popular as other legumes such as soybeans or peas, they were used by various Native Americans.
Since the seeds are filled with nitrogen alkaloids, they needed to be soaked in warm water and then cooked or toasted. Even now, in the 20th century, lupines are often used as food. You can use the seeds to add flavor and texture to both sweet and savory foods, and in some cases, they are simply soaked in brine and eaten whole.
While some lupine types are harmful to animals, other varieties can actually be good sources of protein for farm animals. Farm animals like cattle, sheep, and horses can feed on the legumes that are packed with energy and protein. Grazing on wild lupines can be an excellent way to feed animals and keep the lupine population under control.
Lupines also have more protein than traditional grain and fodder, making them a good choice for farmers. However, there are some poisonous species of lupines that need to be avoided, particularly those that grow naturally in the wild.
Native Americans were the first to use the leaves of lupines for medicinal purposes. They would brew the leaves of the lupines into a cold tea to treat nausea and internal bleeding. The plant also can be used as a laxative and as an anti-inflammatory agent. It can also be made into a poultice to treat boils, arthritis pain, and inflammation.
There is also insufficient evidence that taking prepared lupines by mouth can help with high cholesterol as an alternative to milk protein. Lupines also have several other reported health benefits when taken orally, but they do require more testing.
Using lupines as medicine should only be done under a trained doctor or physician’s eye, as the plant can be toxic if not prepared correctly. Even with prepared lupines, the most common side effects can be stomach problems and allergic reactions. However, medical lupines have their bitter toxins removed before being allowed to be prescribed.
What is the Symbolism of a Lupine Tattoo?
Lupines are often used in tattoos along with wolves. When used by themselves, they can also symbolize voraciousness or admiration. Sometimes lupines are used as tattoos to show a willingness to overcome a trying situation or recover from trauma, as they symbolize new opportunities.
When Should You Give Someone a Lupine?
Lupines are very easy to grow and can thrive in even the harshest of climates, depending on the hybrid. Even a novice gardener can plant one and have it flourish and bloom by the start of spring. Depending on the type that you get, you’ll be able to have a beautiful and colorful addition to your backyard – and one that’s filled with meaning, to boot. This flower, when cut, makes the perfect gift for any occasion.
*image by Anegada/depositphotos