Lupin Land29th December 2016 • Places to Visit • Stephanie Donaldson
As someone who has always struggled to keep lupins alive, what with woolly aphids, rot – and plants that seem to lose the will to live beyond their first season – the vast drifts of naturalized Russell lupins on the South Island must count amongst my Top 10 encounters with plants – ever.
In the valleys of the Southern Alps around Queenstown and Glenorchy and on our way from Queenstown towards Mount Cook, through Lindis Pass we must have driven through 25 miles of spectacular lupin displays – along the verges, in the valleys, under willow trees, on rocky hillsides and on river banks – all at their peak. It was a mesmerising sight, especially when the lupins are backed by snow covered peaks.
Who knew that they love to grow in boggy conditions, in shade, and on shingle banks next to rushing rivers? Certainly not me.
Yellow tree lupins have been a feature all over the South Island, seemingly happy to grow anywhere and everywhere, even on the edge of beaches, but the Russell lupins seem to confine themselves to this cool lakeland area. I did notice (but fail to get photos) that tree lupins growing close to the Russell lupins tend to hybridise so that instead of being uniformly yellow as elsewhere, there are whites and soft pinks too.
But whatever colour, and whichever type of lupin, they thrive in New Zealand as nowhere else. I have serious lupin envy!