Lupine flowers, which belong to the lupinus genus, are members of the family fabaceae and subfamily faboideae. These blossoms have a large growth span, reaching from areas of the western United States to South America, and Africa to the Mediterranean. Lupines are mostly made up of perennials, but there are also annual and shrub varieties. These plants can reach between 1 to 10 feet in height – depending upon the type – and contain palmate leaves that resemble thin fingers, which often feature dense, silvery hairs. The flowers themselves are made up of large spikes that may be either whorling or densely clustered. The small pea-like heads come in a vast array of shades, from white, yellow, apricot and pink, to blue, purple, lilac and violet; they may also be bicolored.
Although lupine flowers are known for their uniquely attractive stature, over time they have made a name for themselves as a terrifically useful plant. The first noted example of lupine flowers dates back between 2,000 to 3,000 years, when, in several areas of the Mediterranean, this plant was considered an important food staple. Throughout history, lupine legumes have been soaked in salt water and eaten raw, or made into flour or cooking oil. Today, lupine beans are still used in the same way; however, they are also used to make everything from pasta to pub fare – such as the pickled sweet lupines. In addition to being something of a delicacy, lupine flowers were also used as something of a cosmetic. The English herbalist John Parkinson stated that many women made a concoction of lupine meal, the gall of a goat, and lemon juice to help soften their skin. In more modern times, the extracted oils have undergone extensive research, which has shown that they may penetrate the basal layers of skin and promote cellular activity. This is not surprising, as it has long been known that lupine seeds are high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Despite the fact that these plants are generally harmless, some types contain toxic alkaloids which may be harmful to both livestock and humans, and may also cause skin irritation if used in cosmetic products.
In general, the lupine flower is considered the emblem of imagination. As a gift, these plants are frequently given as a token of cheer and lightheartedness, and are often presented on birthdays, anniversaries, and other joyous occasions. Although these blossoms may be given as a potted plant, they look stunning as part of an arrangement or solid bouquet.