Seashore lupine (Lupinus littoralis) grows in sandy beaches and dunes along the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. One place where it is found is Radar Hill Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. More than ten years ago, I noticed this lovely lupine when I first hiked down to the beaches. It was good to see that it was still there and thriving.
Unlike introduced roadside lupines, seashore lupine grows in a very specific habitat. It is found in moist dunes that are exposed to salt spray and high winds, conditions that are common in the fog zone on the west coast of Vancouver Island. At Radar Hill Beach, the flower grows in the upper dunes above the beach beyond the high tide line and before the edge of the forest. Seashore lupine is a pioneer plant in dune succession and does well in sandy environments. As a result, the location is ideally suited for this plant and a good place to view it reliably.
Visually, this lupine is distinctive. It has long trailing stems up to 60 cm long and forms sprawling mats. The leaves have the characteristic lupine, palmately-compound whorl of leaflets originating from a central point. In addition, the leaves have short, stiff silver hairs that are visible from below. The stems are also finely hairy.
Like other members of the pea family (Fabaceae), seashore lupine produces flowers with an upright ‘standard’, a lateral pair of ‘wings’, and two joined inner petals that form a lower ‘keel’. The visible outer wings of the flower are generally blue to purple in colour. The upper standard is usually a pale purple to white in colour. The flowers form a beautiful cluster at the end of the stems. After flowering, the plant forms hairy pea pods that are up to 3.5 cm in length.
While it may be a bit difficult to make the hike down to Radar Hill Beach to view this wildflower, look for it in exposed dunes and sandy beaches as well as on more sheltered dune communities on the east side on Vancouver Island that are easier to access. It is definitely worth finding and appreciating!