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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

June 6, 2011 at 11:37 AM

911 nature moment: Go see lupine in bloom now

The lupine at Seattle’s Discovery Park are their peak.

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Lupine at Discovery Park, Hidden Valley Trail

With their spectacular purples and blues, and filling a great sweep of open field off the Hidden Valley trail, the lupine are an annual treat. Standing hip high, they are at their most spectacular in the western light that sweeps across the field right at dinner time — so bring a picnic, enjoy the flowers and continue your walk to the beach.

One of the lupine’s many graces is its ability to save bees the work of visiting its flowers for pollination when another bee has already beat them to it. A bee’s weight on the lip of the bloom opens the flower, hatch like, as the flower springs open to receive the pollinating bee. After it flies off, the flower remains sprung open, displaying the tell tale deep blue at its interior. No mere decoration, the beautiful opened form of the blooms signals bees to keep moving on, and pollinate other blossoms still waiting on the lupine’s stem.

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Lupine blossoms already visited by bees are sprung open

Douglas MacDonald, photos

The lupine field was seeded as part of landscape plan created at the park to screen the West Point treatment plant. To learn more about lupine, read my story in The Seattle Times.

I wrote it after a chance encounter with the field one night, on a wander down to the beach. I enjoy these flowers every year. One of my favorite ways to savor them is to sit in the long soft grass amid the flower clumps, with the flowers towering over my head, looking through the petals back lit by the sun. To have flowers and long, cool grass fill your senses — now that is a nice way to relax come evening time.

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