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       The two species on this page are very difficult, perhaps impossible, to tell apart when they are young.  At maturity, L. brevicaulis is a much smaller plant in all aspects.

    Linnaeus named the Lupinus genus in 1753.  "Lupinus" (Latin for "Wolf") was so named because of the erroneous belief that the species degraded land.

    Click to read about Lupines in general.

Lupinus brevicaulis
Lupinus brevicaulis   (Short-stemmed Lupine)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert.  Openings. Spring, summer.
Mud Springs Trail near Cortez, May 15, 2010.

Lupinus brevicaulis is very similar to L. kingii, shown below, but L. brevicaulis is smaller in all characters: overall height, flower size, leaf size, number of leaves, etc.  Its main stem is either absent or no more than about two centimeters long, thus the specific epithet, "brevicaulis", "short stemmed".  ("Acaulis" would mean "without a stem".  In many instances L. brevicaulis has no stem.) 

Both species are usually quite abundant over large areas.  Both are quite hairy, minute, and very attractive.

Lupinus brevicaulis was described by Sereno Watson in 1871 from a specimen he collected in Nevada.    

 

Lupinus brevicaulis

Lupinus brevicaulis   Short-stemmed Lupine)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert.  Openings. Spring, summer.
Mud Springs Trail near Cortez, May 15, 2010.

Both L. brevicaulis and L. kingii begin flowering when the main stem is quite short. 

Flowering begins even when the peduncle (the common stem of a flower cluster) is quite short. The arrow points to the bottom of the very light green, hairy, peduncle.  The peduncle on both plants can be from zero to about eight centimeters long.

Lupinus brevicaulis

Lupinus brevicaulis

Lupinus brevicaulis   (Short-stemmed Lupine)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert.  Openings. Spring, summer.
Mud Springs Trail near Cortez, May 15, 2010.

Cotyledons are easy to see.  They are light green, round, sessile, and persistent. There is no main stem of the plant and no peduncle showing in this photograph.

The stemless nature of Lupinus brevicaulis is one key characteristic that distinguishes it from Lupinus kingii.  Another is the length of the calyx lips; the lower lip of A. brevicaulis is considerably longer than the upper lip.  On A. kingii the lips are about equal.  The arrows point to an upper calyx lip on one flower and a lower lip on another flower. 

Note also that one of the lips is lobed.  Some botanical keys state that variations in the lobes can help distinguish between the two species.

Lupinus brevicaulis

Lupinus brevicaulis   (Short-stemmed Lupine)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert.  Openings. Spring, summer.
Mud Springs Trail near Cortez, May 15, 2010.

Lupinus brevicaulis

Lupinus brevicaulis   (Short-stemmed Lupine)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Semi-desert.  Openings. Spring, summer.
Mud Springs Trail near Cortez, May 24, 2010.

Seed pods of the two species shown on this page are quite similar.

Lupinus kingii

Lupinus kingii variety kingii (King's Lupine)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane.  Meadows, woodlands. Summer. Near McPhee Reservoir, July 13, 2010.

Lupinus kingii is an annual growing from four-to-twelve inches tall.  It often is very common in various Sagebrush communities.

Both Lupines shown on this page grow singly, scattered over wide areas, or they can grow in dense clusters.  Both species also flower when plants are quite young and then continue to flower for many weeks.  Notice that the plant at left is flowering and also has well-developed seed pods.

Lupinus kingii

Lupinus kingii variety kingii  (King's Lupine)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane.  Meadows, woodlands. Summer. Near McPhee Reservoir, July 13, 2010.

Lupinus kingii

Lupinus kingii Lupinus kingii

Lupinus kingii variety kingii  (King's Lupine)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane.  Meadows, woodlands. Summer.  McPhee Reservoir, July 11, 2010 and Lone Mesa State Park, August 4, 2008.

The arrows in the top photograph at left point to nodes, the points from which new leaves emerge along the main plant stemIn L. Kingii the distance between nodes is about two centimeters. 

In L. brevicaulis there is usually one node or possibly a few.  In other words, leaves and flower stems of L. brevicaulis arise immediately above the cotyledons and no main plant stem develops.

The next two photographs enlarge one of the tiny flowers of L. kingii.  You can see the lobes on one of the calyx lips and you can see, especially in the lower right photograph, that the lips are about equal in length.

Lupinus kingii was first collected in Heber Utah around 1870 by Sereno Watson and he named it in 1873.

Lupinus kingii variety kingii  (King's Lupine)
Fabaceae (Pea Family)

Foothills, montane.  Meadows, woodlands. Summer.
Lone Mesa State Park, August 4, 2008.

Pods are hairy and eventually develop a fine, pointed tip.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Lupinus brevicaulis

Range map for Lupinus brevicaulis

Range map for Lupinus kingii