Monday, March 5, 2012

Sky-blue lupine

My nature journal entry (click to view larger)

I had a chance Saturday to visit some scrub areas at Rookery Bay, and sketch the subtle beauty of the sky blue-lupine, which is blooming now.  Sky-blue lupine (Lupinus diffusus) is well named – the pea-like flowers are a delicate blue and white that echoes the atmospheric colors overhead. 

Amazingly, these native wildflowers grow in one of our harshest habitats in Florida – scrub.  The soil is almost pure sand, a “concealed desert” as described by Dr. W. H. Simmons in 1822.  Imagine surviving in the intensity of a full Florida sun, the light and heat enhanced by reflective white sand that drains quickly after a rain.  Yet these lovely wildflowers are thriving, and new seedlings are emerging.

I chose a small plant to draw as lupines are quite complex!

Sky-blue lupines are on the endangered species list and protected by law.  Their beauty made them irresistible to past collectors; however, they do not like to have their roots disturbed and don’t survive transplanting.  The seeds require specialized soil, and take a long time to germinate.  The sandy scrub they call home was rapidly developed in the past because of its desirable higher elevations.  These factors make for a rarely seen wildflower. 

Larger sky blue lupines,
growing  right out of the scrub's sugar sand.
A member of the bean or pea family, Fabaceae, sky-blue lupine fixes nitrogen in the soil, which is typical of many legumes.  The alternate leaves, stems, and seedpods are covered in very fine silvery-white hairs.  

The genus name of Lupinus derives from the Latin word for wolf, "lupus.".  Explanations I’ve read include the idea that the lupines wolfishly devoured the nutrients from the soil so other plants could not grow; another story is that they grow alone, like the lone wolf.  The species name of diffusus is also Latin, meaning "spread out or wide."

Sky-blue lupine ranges throughout Florida and as far north as North Carolina, and west to Mississippi. I sketched these in pencil first, then drew in black ink, adding watercolor and a touch of watercolor pencil.  Thanks to my companions, Jeanette and Cyril, for an enjoyable morning!

Details: Mechanical pencil, .7 mm (generic)
Pitt artist's pen in black, XS size for drawing, S size for writing
Daniel Smith watercolors and Niji aquabrushes
Kimberly watercolor pencils
Pentalic Nature sketch sketchbook

Web resources and more photos of sky blue lupine: