In a state where summer is famously unpredictable, you can bet on one thing: every road and hillside and meadow worth its salt from Kittery to Caribou will be aglow with purple spires in mid-June — the ramp-up to the summer solstice — when lupines come into flower.
During the two weeks or so when the great lupine show is going on, you’ll probably feel like the rest of us that this splendid creature deserves to be the Maine state flower, no question. It has every virtue, even apart from the dusky beauty of its blooms. It’s fragrant: sweet with a spicy, peppery edge. It’s tough, thriving in poor, sandy soil and indifferent to environmental insults like drought, insects, and disease. It’s variable enough to avoid monotony — ranging naturally from purple to white, pink, and a bright rosy hue just short of red — but these colors never clash and can even seem tastefully understated compared to, say, the glare of gladioli and geraniums.
Lupines are so much a part of the Maine scene that it’s startling to realize they haven’t always been here. The late Barbara Cooney, author of the children’s classic Miss Rumphius — the tale of the Lupine Lady who scattered seeds everywhere she went — recalled that in her girlhood lupines were not the ubiquitous roadside attraction we know today. “I remember when you first started seeing them, out in fields,” she said. “And that wasn’t that long ago.”
Clearly there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
Yes, there is. Read more of this story by Richard Grant in Down East magazine. The story has lovely photos by Susan Cole Kelly.