Wander & Wonder

Beauty and controversy: It’s lupine season again across northern Minnesota

Purple lupine flowers bloom along a roadside
Lupines bloom along a roadside in Duluth on Monday afternoon. The flowers are ubiquitous in parts of northern Minnesota during the early summer in shades of purple, pink and white.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

It’s lupine season again in northern Minnesota.

Purple lupine flowers bloom along a roadside
Lupines bloom along Rice Lake Road in Duluth earlier this week.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

In Duluth, up the North Shore, across the region — you’ll find those familiar purple, blue, pink and white flowers climbing toward the sky along roadsides and trails.

On sunny days, lupine flowers can be stunning when contrasted with blue skies and the verdant green of early summer.

But as MPR News correspondent Dan Kraker reported back in 2022, the beautiful floral display comes with a catch: if you’re enjoying lupine blooms while on a drive or hike in northern Minnesota, you’re likely seeing a non-native species.

There is a lupine species — “wild lupine” — that’s native to east-central and southeast Minnesota.

But the West Coast native “bigleaf” or “large-leaved” lupine is what dominates roadsides across northern Minnesota, the descendants of plants that escaped Midwest gardens.

There are concerns the non-native, aggressively spreading species could push out wild lupine and other native plants. Read more about the beautiful — and controversial — lupine in the 2022 MPR News story.

Purple flowers in a field.
A dense collection of lupine flowers along Scenic Highway 61 between Duluth and Two Harbors in June 2022.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News file