Lupins, or lupines, form unusual flowers which are arranged in a tower-shape, and are usually bicolored. You might also see the resemblance to the flower of a pea, as they are part of the same plant family, Fabaceae.
The foliage is also pretty impressive, with fan-shaped leaves.
With most varieties, these plants will get bigger and better year after year, providing your garden with a lot of architectural interest, while providing shelter and food to the wildlife in your garden.
These striking flowers come in vibrant colors, and make great features within any garden.
You’ve probably seen them before in planting schemes, even if you haven’t grown them yourself, and you may even have given them as a gift, but have you thought about what the lupine flower represents?
What does ‘Lupine’ Mean?
The name lupine looks a lot like the Latin word for wolf, Lupus. The name attached to the flower dates back to the 14th century.
Originally, when this plant was discovered (that is, when we came to classify plants as we know them today), there were no other plants growing near the lupines.
Combining this with the poor quality soil it was growing in, the people who found this plant came to the wrong conclusion.
They thought that the lupines had sapped the soil of all its goodness, ensuring that only lupines would grow in these conditions, and caused other plants to die as a result. They named it the lupin, after the appetite of the hungry wolf.
In fact, they are the opposite. The lupine is what’s called a nitrogen-fixing plant. This is where a plant takes nitrogen from the air, and returns it to the soil where it acts as a fertilizer.
As you might imagine, this benefits all plants in the soil, as nitrogen is one of the main elements needed for healthy growth, and you’ll always find it in compost.
While these plants do improve the quality of the soil, this can also be somewhat detrimental. Some species of lupine are short-lived. Once they’ve expired, this helps invasive plants flourish in their place, as they take the resulting goodness and thrive.
Most lupine varieties available today were developed by one horticulturist, George Russell. In the first part of the 1900s, he created new varieties which produced different colors, and more densely-packed flower clusters.
Probably the most famous variety of the lupine is the bluebonnet, which is also the state flower of Texas.
You can also get them in pink, purple, white, red, or combinations, which make them perfect for many color schemes and themes within your garden.
They are also pretty much maintenance-free, apart from the odd deadheading. Lupines also largely take care of themselves, and rarely need watering, unless the weather has been extremely dry.
What do Lupine Flowers Represent?
Because of the assumptions made when the flower was first discovered, the lupine flower stands for a great hunger or an appetite for life and love, as well as the strength, loyalty, and family values that wolves embody.
Lupines also represent adoration, happiness, and because of its repeat-flowering characteristic, renewal and fresh opportunities.
What is the Cultural Significance behind the Lupine Flower?
While the lupine flower is beautiful in its own right, not only is it beneficial to the soil’s fertility, but they are also edible plants.
They have been used as food crops by the early Egyptians and the pre-Incan people, and while the seeds can’t be eaten raw, they have a bitter taste, and absorb the flavors of whatever they are cooked in.
Efforts to make them sweeter have worked to some extent through breeding, but they’ve failed to take off as a widely-used staple food.
In some places, they are used as part of Tapas, and in others, they are treated like peanuts where they are roasted and salted.
They are also useful when it comes to fodder protein for cattle, though it’s important to note that some species are poisonous, which are mostly grown in the wild.
Native Americans used the lupine plant for several medicinal uses, to treat internal bleeding and nausea by making tea from the leaves. A poultice made from the plant also helps relieve inflammation, arthritis, and boils.
What does a Lupine Flower Tattoo Mean?
When the image of a lupine flower is used by itself in a tattoo, they have an overarching symbolism of adoration for someone, or a hunger for life and its many possibilities.
These beautiful flowers can represent someone in your life who helps you be more resilient to life’s problems, and someone who gives you a lot of happiness.
They are also symbolic of family, of loyalty, and the drive to succeed and to go after what you want from life.
Lupine tattoos can represent resourcefulness, or overcoming a terrible situation or life-changing event. Lupine blooms also symbolize hope for the future, and the new chances that come along with it.
These are just a few of the many reasons why people get lupine flower tattoos, and because they are so versatile, they are also suitable for a range of tattoo styles.
This can further inform the meaning of the tattoo, as well as helping to express your personality of your love of art and nature.
When Should You Give Someone Lupine Flowers?
Lupine plants are extremely easy plants to grow, even from seed. They can also grow well in very difficult conditions, which means the flowers carry the meaning of resilience and strength.
You can give someone lupine flowers for nearly any occasion you can think of, but they are especially appropriate blooms for carrying a message of hope, adoration, and love.
They make the perfect message of thanks, when someone has been your rock, or they’ve been incredibly loyal to you, or there for you when you needed them most, despite their own problems which they may be struggling with.
They are perfect for milestone celebrations, as each tiny bloom on a long cluster of flowers represents the endless possibilities that these milestones have opened up.
Lupins are also a great gift when you want to encourage someone. A bouquet of lupines is a sign of hope for the future, as the plants themselves are prolific bloomers.
Some varieties can repeat flower through the season, providing you deadhead the dying flowers, you can even get three flushes of flowers.
As this is mostly everything that the lupines symbolize, there’s very little chance of miscommunication through these gorgeous blooms. They are suitable for any occasion you can think of, and they’re bound to lift someone’s spirits.