The photo above shows velvet lupine as seen on grassy slopes above the farm buildings in Columbia Hills State Park in the Columbia River Gorge..........June 8, 2008. Velvet lupine has a long, very tightly flowered raceme with flowers from 8-12 mm long.
Velvet lupine is an attractive perennial wildflower recognized by its silvery foliage and elongated, tightly flowered racemes. Plants typically have one to several simple to freely branched stems which arise 30-70 cm high. The leaves and stems are typically densely covered with a mixture of both short and long, straight hairs that may be both spreading and appressed or occasionally both appressed. The hairs typically are grayish or rust-colored. The leaves are generally found on the stems, with the petioles 1-4 times longer than the blades. The 7-10 leaflets are 3-5 cm long with oblanceolate to narrowly oblong blades. Both surfaces of the leaflets are about equally covered with silvery-gray hairs.
The racemes are long and narrow and are generally closely flowered. The pedicels measure 1-3 mm long and are subtended by white-haired bracts about equally long. The calyx likewise is densely haired with the upper lip cleft. The upper base of the calyx is not spurred but may be somewhat swollen. The corolla is light blue, pink or white in color and measures 12-14 mm long. The banner is shorter than the wings and is only slightly reflexed. The back of the banner is densely haired over much of its surface with the hairs extending past the calyx lobes to the upper third or sometimes to the tip of the banner. The wings are glabrous or perhaps lightly haired along the margins near the basal claw. The fruits measure 1.5 - 3 cm long and 7-8 mm wide and are covered with shaggy, rusty hairs.
subspecies leucophyllus (formerly variety leucophyllus ) - Flowers larger, measuring 8-10 mm long. The pressed racemes are generally much wider than 2 cm. The leaflets are typically greater than 7 mm wide with loose, spreading, long hairs. Found east of the Cascade Mts. from central and eastern Washington and Oregon eastward to Montana, northwestern Wyoming, Idaho and western Nevada.
subspecies erectus (formerly variety tenuispicus) - Flowers smaller, measuring 7-8 mm long. Pressed racemes narrower, generally less than 2 cm wide. The leaflets measure less than 7 mm wide with short, appressed hairs. Found from Lincoln County in Washington south to central and southeastern Oregon and eastward to west-central and southwestern Idaho.
Velvet lupine may be found on dry, open rangeland or grasslands from the lowlands and foothills to moderate elevations in the mountains.
Velvet lupine may be found east of the Cascade Mts. from central and eastern Washington and Oregon eastward to Montana, northwestern Wyoming, Idaho and western Nevada.
In the Columbia River Gorge it may be found between the elevations of 100'-3000' from about the Klickitat River and Rowena in the west and eastward towards Roosevelt, WA and Arlington, OR.
The photo at right of shows a close-up of the keel of the flower of velvet lupine as seen on grassy slopes above the farm buildings in Columbia Hills State Park in the Columbia River Gorge........June 8, 2008. The keel of velvet lupine is turned upwards and longer and more narrow than that of the similar silky lupine (Lupinus sericeus) which generally also has larger flowers.