1. Family: Fabaceae Lindl.
    1. Genus: Lupinus L.
      1. Lupinus polyphyllus Lindl.

        Lupinus polyphyllus was introduced to Europe from North America by the famous explorer and plant collector David Douglas. Formerly widely grown as a striking garden plant in its own right, L. polyphyllus is one of the parents in crosses that formed the renowned Russell Hybrids, Lupinus × regalis, which became a popular garden ornamental in the UK from the late 1930s onwards.


    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    Lupinus polyphyllus was introduced to Europe from North America by the famous explorer and plant collector David Douglas. Formerly widely grown as a striking garden plant in its own right, L. polyphyllus is one of the parents in crosses that formed the renowned Russell Hybrids, Lupinus × regalis, which became a popular garden ornamental in the UK from the late 1930s onwards.

    The genus takes its name from the Latin lupus, meaning wolfish, in reference to the mistaken belief that this plant devours nutrients from the soil. A member of the pea and bean family (Leguminosae), large-leaved lupin can actually enhance soil fertility with the help of nitrogen-fixing bacteria within special root nodules.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Large-leaved lupin is native to western North America (from the Pacific States east to the Rocky Mountains in the USA and north to British Columbia in Canada), where it is found from sea level to 2,200 m (occasionally to 2,600 m) above sea level. It has also been introduced to parts of Europe, eastern Canada and New Zealand, and in the last it is considered to be an important invasive species. In parts of Europe, the species is locally naturalised, and spontaneous hybrids with Lupinus × regalis (in cultivation known as Russell hybrids) and other introduced species including L. nootkatensis (Nootka lupin), have been reported.


    A stout herbaceous perennial, large-leaved lupin grows up to 1.5 m tall. The palmate leaves are divided into 9–17 leaflets; leaflets are up to 15×3 cm. Flowers can be blue, purple, pink or white and are up to 14 mm long. The pea-like flowers are arranged densely on stems up to 60 cm long. The fruit is a brown pod up to 4 cm long, covered with matted, woolly hairs; the pod opens to release 5–9 spotted seeds.

    In addition to this general description of large-leaved lupin, it is important to note that the external form and appearance of this species is highly variable across its wide range in western North America.

    How many species?

    Lupinus polyphyllus , as currently circumscribed by Barneby (1989) and Isely (1998), comprises a set of six named botanical varieties, occupying distinct but somewhat overlapping distributions. These are L. polyphyllus var. ammophilus , L. polyphyllus var. burkei , L. polyphyllus var. humicola , L. polyphyllus var. polyphyllus , L. polyphyllus var. prunophilus and L. polyphyllus var. saxosus , although some authors still maintain these as distinct species (Riggins & Sholars, 1993).

    Threats and conservation

    This species is widespread and often locally abundant, and is not considered to be threatened.


    Formerly a popular garden plant, particularly in Europe, large-leaved lupin is an attractive addition to flower borders and cottage gardens and went on to be used as one of the parents of the famous Russell Hybrids that have dominated lupin-growing since the 1930s.

    Lupinus species are variably toxic due to the presence of alkaloids such as quinolizidine, and ingestion of foliage of some species can be fatal. Despite toxicity of some Lupinus species, others ( L. albus , L. luteus and L. mutabilis ) are cultivated for their edible, high protein seeds. Large-leaved lupin has been cultivated as a fodder crop and green manure, for example in Belarus and Ukraine.

    Low alkaloid forms of Lupinus polyphyllus have recently been produced, and the commercial cultivar L. polyphyllus ‘Pervenec’ has been released; L. polyphyllus is of particular value in northern regions of the world such as Finland and Russia, where seeds of other Lupinus species do not ripen.

    Millennium Seed Bank: Saving seeds

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

    Five collections of Lupinus polyphyllus are held in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

    See Kew’s Seed Information Database for further information on Lupinus polyphyllus seeds

    This species at Kew

    Pressed and dried specimens of Lupinus polyphyllus are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

    On moist, generally well-drained soils; in mesic mountain forests, meadows, sage brush and pine forests, often on riversides.
    Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria but not considered to be threatened.

    Ingestion of any part of a Lupinus can cause gastrointestinal upset or more severe symptoms if large quantities are consumed.

    Ornamental, fodder, green manure.



    Found In:

    California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington

    Introduced Into:

    Argentina South, Austria, Baltic States, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Central European Rus, Chile South, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East European Russia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Illinois, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Mongolia, Netherlands, New South Wales, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, North European Russi, Northwest European R, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania, South Australia, South European Russi, Sweden, Switzerland, Transcaucasus, Ukraine, Victoria, West Siberia, Yugoslavia

    Common Names

    Large-leaved lupin

    Lupinus polyphyllus Lindl. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Douglas, D. [s.n.] K000829569
    Douglas, D. [s.n.], Northern America K000829565
    Lyall, D. [s.n.], British Columbia K000829566
    Lyall, D. [s.n.], Oregon K000829567
    Douglas, D. [54] K000829568

    First published in Bot. Reg. 13: t. 1095 (1827)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2014) Australian Plant Census (APC) . Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria. http://www.anbg.gov.au/chah/apc/index.html
    • [2] Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014) Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide , ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale
    • [3] Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013) Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh , Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh
    • [5] (2011) Turczaninowia 14(1): 65-74
    • [8] (2008) Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 107: 1-3348. Missouri Botanical Garden
    • [11] (2004) Nouvelle flore de la Belgique du G. D. de Luxembourg, du Nord de la France et des régions voisines , ed. 5: 1-1167. Edition du Patrimoine du Jardin botanique national de Belgique
    • [12] Kumar, S. & Sane, P.V. (2003) Legumes of South Asia. A Checklist . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [14] Isely, D. (1998) Native and Naturalized Leguminosae (Fabaceae) of the United States . Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
    • [17] Yakovlev, G.P., Sytin, A.K. & Roskov, Y.R. (1996) Legumes of Northern Eurasia. A checklist . Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [20] (1988) Flora of New Zealand 4: 1-1365. Botany division, D.S.I.R., Christchurch
    • [21] Tutin, T.G. & al. (eds.) (1968) Flora Europaea 2: 1-469. Cambridge University Press


    • [4] (2012) Phytologia Balcanica 18: 333-373
    • [6] Dauncey, E. A. (2010). Poisonous Plants. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [7] The Plant List (2010). Lupinus polyphyllus.
    • [9] Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. Third edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
    • [10] Lewis, G., Schrire, B., Mackinder, B. & Lock, M. (2005). Legumes of the World. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [13] Kurlovich, B.S. (ed.) (2002). Lupins (Geography, Classification, Genetic Resources and Breeding). OY International North Express, St Petersburg, Russia.
    • [15] Isely, D. (1998). Native and Naturalized Leguminosae of the United States. Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, Brigham Young University, Provo, USA.
    • [16] Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1997). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. Volume 3 (L to Q). Macmillan Reference, London.
    • [18] Riggins, R. & Sholars, T. (1993). Lupinus. In: The Jepson Manual of Higher Plants of California, ed. J.C. Hickman. University of California Press.
    • [19] Barneby, R.C. (1989). Intermountain Flora. Vascular Plants of the Intermountain West, USA. Vol. 3B. Fabales. New York Botanical Garden.


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    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2017. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
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    Kew Species Profiles
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