Sundial Lupine Project

Conservation and Education

 This project was awarded the Maine Arts Commission Bicentennial Grant.

Second year Lupine plant.
Photograph courtesy of the BHGC.

The Sundial Lupine Project is an undertaking by the BHGC that hopes to re-establish the native sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis) back into Maine.This native plant is no longer found wild in the state, although it has been re-introduced in a few small areas in southern Maine. Our hope is to increase its range in the state with the help of club members by planting seeds in the fall in containers, then transplanting the new plants in spring into pots which can then be available for donating or planting. Handing seeds out in the summer for individuals to plant in the fall will also be utilized.

This native lupine is an essential plant for the Karner Blue butterfly. Information abounds on the web that the Karner Blue had been extirpated from Maine due to habitat loss and loss of the sundial lupine. A USFWS Karner Blue Recovery Plan done in 2003 mentions that a specimen of the Karner Blue was found and recorded during the 1860’s from a site located in the former Norway Barrens in Norway, Maine.

Just recently, in correspondence with Phillip deMaynadier, Ph.D. of the Wildlife Research & Assessment Section of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, the presence of the Karner Blue is now in question. As Dr. deMaynadier states “After Mr. John Calhoun, research associate at Florida State Collection of Anthropods, conducted forensic research on the original purported Maine specimen, he concluded that its origin was mistakenly attributed. So, while it is possible that the species occurred here historically, there is no evidence of such.

If the sundial lupine ever gets planted in Maine in enough quantities to support the Karner Blue, maybe in the future the butterfly will reside here. The Karner Blue would have to be introduced and the Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife would have to deem it acceptable before that happened. In the meantime, the sundial lupine does act as a host plant for other Maine butterflies. Those include the eastern tailed blue, gray hairstreak and the clouded sulphur.

Unlike the sundial, the non-native western lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), which is prolific along Maine’s highways, does not seem to act as a host plant for any of Maine’s butterflies.

—Jan McIntyre and Michaeleen Ward, BHGC Co-chairs

A Tale of Two Lupines… Acadia National Park 

“Less than a century ago, visitors wouldn’t have seen fields awash with purple flowers on a summer drive to Acadia National Park. In fact, while there are hundreds of lupine species worldwide, only one has historically been found growing wild in Maine: the sundial lupine, Lupinus perennis.”

Read the entire article on the park’s website.

Where might you find sundial lupine (Lupinus perennis) seeds and plants for sale?

Prairie Moon Nursery at

Wild Seed Project at

Seeding and Planting Instructions for Sundial Lupine (Lupinus Perennis)


Sundial Lupines sprouting.

  1. Time frame is the end of February, Early March.
  2. Use 3-3/4” pots.  The 4” pots waste planting medium.
  3. Moisten planting medium with enough water to make it feel like a damp sponge.
  4. Fill pots with potting mix.
  5. Place 5 seeds per pot on top of mixture.
  6. Cover with 1/4” to 1/2” of sand.
  7. Water pots. DO NOT FERTILIZE.
  8. Put pots in trays and place them outside ASAP. Raise the tray a bit above ground (use rocks, pieces of wood).
  9. Place them in shady, semi-shady area so they are thoroughly exposed to snow, rain, wind, etc.  This will allow them to be *scarified and *stratified.
  10. Best to cover with a piece of hardware cloth ( or very open boughs) if possible to prevent wildlife interference. Boughs need to let snow and rain to reach the pots.
  11. Watch for germination in mid April. Remove hardware cloth (or boughs).
  12. When most have germinated move  them into a sunny area. Watch the weather and water as needed until planted.


*Scarified — The breaking down of the seed coat either by environmental or mechanical means.
* Stratified — The exposure to cold temperatures for a certain length of time.


  • Sundial lupine have long taproots, so plant them mid-May to mid-June in a sunny, sandy spot.  Later times can jeopardize the success.
  • Before planting, lightly water the pot to help hold the soil together. Remove the soil and plant together as a whole from each pot. DO NOT SEPARATE PLANTS. Plant as a group that germinated in the pot.
  • Water plants thoroughly and then water and weed as needed for their first growing season. Remember, DO NOT FERTILIZE.
  • The plants will occasionally flower their first season in July, August. From then on, they will flower in May/June.