Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A perennial favorite

with 37 comments

Melissa Pierson: "Lupinus perennis. This is closely associated with black oak sand savanna and fire. If a fire isn't run through pretty regularly, we see sharp declines in numbers of lupine. This is the host plant for the Karner Blue butterfly, which used to be found at Illinois Beach but is no longer. There is still a population of them at Indiana Dunes, I understand."

From June 9 at Illinois Beach State Park here’s Lupinus perennis, known as wild lupine and apparently also as sundial lupine, Indian beet, and old maid’s bonnets.

Melissa Pierson provides more information about the species: “This is closely associated with black oak sand savanna and fire. If a fire isn’t run through pretty regularly, we see sharp declines in numbers of lupine. This is the host plant for the Karner Blue butterfly, which used to be found at Illinois Beach but is no longer. There is still a population of them at Indiana Dunes, I understand.”

Speaking of an association with fire, here’s a nearby scene from the same outing; notice the oaks and lupines.

Burned Tree by Lupines 7568

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 11, 2016 at 4:41 AM

37 Responses

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  1. Good to know about lupines and fire. Fire is part of a sustainable environment.

    Sherry Felix

    July 11, 2016 at 4:47 AM

    • I hadn’t known about that association either. Nowadays the relationship is complicated by the greater presence of houses and other structures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2016 at 5:27 AM

  2. Dennis Moore would appreciate your post.

    Although the lupine portrait is lovely, I am more taken with the ecological portrait below showing the relationship between fire and its association with the various plants that rely upon it.

    Steve Gingold

    July 11, 2016 at 5:28 AM

    • I’d never seen that Monty Python routine but I had heard of Moore’s Law.

      Your phrase “ecological portrait” sent me searching and I found, among other things, this.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2016 at 5:57 AM

      • So did you download a “portrait” for screensaver? I think Gordon Moore, or Roger Moore for that matter, has more societal significance than confused Dennis.

        We do also have a few in New England as you have seen before.

        Steve Gingold

        July 11, 2016 at 6:20 AM

        • No, I didn’t download a portrait as a screensaver.

          I’d forgotten about your lupine portrait of what I now see is the same species I encountered in Illinois. This is one of those rare times when we’ve portrayed the same wildflower. I also photographed some common milkweed, which grows in New England as well.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 11, 2016 at 6:40 AM

          • Of course I was just kidding. I would guess a wildflower panorama to be more your style. My background is 18% gray and screensaver a slideshow of my web images.

            I imagine we’ll see more overlap as time progresses. There are some plants that succeed in all environments.

            Steve Gingold

            July 11, 2016 at 6:48 AM

            • I didn’t take you seriously about the portrait screensaver. From what I understand, modern monitors are nearly as disposed to burn in as the old ones were. Still, like you, I do have a screensaver that draws from a folder of many of my nature photographs.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 11, 2016 at 7:21 AM

  3. While reading about the lead plant, I learned its deep root system allows it to recover well from fire, too. These lupines are lovely — just as nice as our bluebonnets.

    All of that green leafiness and apparently undamaged bark behind the burned tree seems a little odd. Might this have been the result of a lightning strike? If full-blown fire had come through, it seems there ought to be more evidence of it. Of course, fire’s a strange thing, and the damage it leaves behind can be more random than might be expected.

    Even after it was pointed out, I had a hard time finding the stone-faced man in your previous post. Here? The first thing I saw was the silhouette of a dolphin, just clearing the water and falling backwards. The narrowing of the trunk where it meets the ground adds to the impression, as does the nose-like upper end.


    July 11, 2016 at 6:04 AM

    • I see a breaching whale but I’ve not seen dolphins when on a whale watch which is the only opportunity I’ve had so far. Some of us are lucky enough to have the ocean on their doorstep. 🙂

      Steve Gingold

      July 11, 2016 at 6:22 AM

    • The so-called mind’s eye is an idiosyncratic one, isn’t it? A face in a roadcut, a dolphin in a burned tree (linking the opposing elements of fire and water). You might say it’s all as you like it:

      “And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
      Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
      Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
      I would not change it.”

      As you say, fire’s a strange and capricious thing. Perhaps Melissa knows the recent fire history of this place and can tell us why only one tree shows such obvious burning. I wonder if the trees in back are new (and rapid) growth.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2016 at 6:28 AM

      • I would not change it, either. “Exempt from public haunt” has particular appeal these days. So does Shakespeare’s skill with language. Of course, If he’d been privy to our conversation about fire, he might have moved from alliteration to a lit oration.


        July 11, 2016 at 5:13 PM

        • Somehow I think Shakespeare was too involved creating literature to give a lit oration (which I take to be an oration about lit[erature].

          By the way, Melissa did add a lot of information below about the burning of the area in question.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 11, 2016 at 5:23 PM

          • Oh — there I go, trying to be too cute. I was thinking “lit” as in lighting a fire.


            July 11, 2016 at 5:42 PM

  4. I’m glad lupines were not affected by the fire, shame about the tree.


    July 11, 2016 at 8:00 AM

  5. I was amused by the Moore Monty bit. The poor man in the hut complained strongly about lupines in every part of their lives. We signed up for a CSA last summer for the first time. After several weeks, we felt the same way about kale as he did about lupine.

    Jim Ruebush

    July 11, 2016 at 9:09 AM

  6. I love what you did with this, Steve. It sounds like fire isn’t well understood though so I’ll add a few comments here. While it is true that sometimes lightning strikes start fires here, what you’ve shown is the remnant of a prescribed burn. A good burn will thin the trees which otherwise will choke the area, and will kill invasives and burn off accumulated duff that make it difficult for spring ephemerals to emerge. It also releases nutrients into the soil. Fire-adapted oaks are little hurt by fire, just a little toasted, except for some younger ones, which as I say, need to be thinned. Fires are run through in fall or late winter, when the plants are dormant. Thus, plants like lupine are untouched. Or perhaps un-torched? Good management would bring a fire through roughly every 1-5 years although resources are limited and this isn’t always possible. Some areas, like the foredunes, with the junipers and bear-berries, cannot withstand fire. The area you show here just had a wonderful burn in very early spring. As a result, we are continuing to see waves of amazing color and vigor in many of the plants that grow here. Lilies, orchids, many others~all extremely rare, all responding with enthusiasm to the fire.


    July 11, 2016 at 10:00 AM

    • Thanks, Melissa, for all that additional information. You confirmed something I wondered about, namely whether the prominently dead tree was a result of a prescribed burn rather than something like a stroke of lightning. You also cleared up the question of whether the lupines get hurt by fire: not in fall and late winter when the plants are dormant. (That’s a good play on words you made with untouched ~ untorched.)

      Your mention of continuing waves of color makes me wish I were back there taking pictures again. I did get plenty during my stay (largely thanks to you), but there’s always an avarice for more photographs.

      I’m glad to have been able to include two pictures here that you hadn’t seen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 11, 2016 at 10:17 AM

      • I kept stopping myself from asking the two of you to stay~ I hated to part with you, and I knew there was a lot more to come here that I would have loved to show you. Ah, well.


        July 12, 2016 at 7:49 AM

        • That’s why I have a special feeling for the flora of central Texas: I get to see it through the seasons and have a chance to observe all the stages of the familiar plants. And as you know, one year can be quite different from the previous year.

          Yes, we could gladly have stayed longer and done more, but as it is we ended up spending 21 days on the road. It was our longest vacation since the almost four weeks we spent last year in New Zealand.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 12, 2016 at 7:54 AM

    • This is interesting, Melissa. I’m familiar with prescribed burns for our prairies, but it never had occurred to me they’d be used in what (looking at the photo) I’d call a timbered area. I have one series of photos, taken over a period of about a month and a half, that shows the changes that come after a burn. It’s beautiful to see the fresh, green grasses and other plants growing up around the black but still standing vegetation.

      I have a friend who’s taken part in the burning of the Konza prairie in Kansas. They allow people to volunteer there for various tasks associated with the burns, and provide training. They follow quite a complicated schedule. Not all of the land is burned in a single year, and sometimes the parcels to be burned are changed because of changing conditions. There are some remarkable photos of the event.


      July 11, 2016 at 5:40 PM

      • I just found where I could reply to you, Linda. You are right, it is so beautiful to see how the land responds after a fire. Aside from a few charred trunks, you’d hardly know a fire had been through, except that everything is so lush. This year I’ve seen plants blooming that I haven’t seen in years. And, I’ve just learned that a group is using fire to manage a redwood forest! It, too, is a fire-dependent ecosystem. I’m excited to learn that they will start using fire judiciously, rather than futilely trying to prevent fire and then having to cope with massive wildfires.


        July 15, 2016 at 9:29 AM

  7. These are beautiful flowers – the petals remind me a little of hydrangeas


    July 11, 2016 at 9:23 PM

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