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© Pete Saloutos/Panoramic Images (Washington Title Image Large)

Kincaid's Lupine and the Boistfort Prairie

by Joe Arnett, Washington Natural Heritage Program rare plant botanist
January 6, 2009

Overall, less than 3% of the native grasslands in the Puget Sound area of Washington State remain, and many of the plant species that require these prairie habitats are now rare. One of these is Kincaid’s lupine (Lupinus sulphureus ssp. kincaidii), a prairie species associated primarily with the Willamette Valley in Oregon. It was federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2000.

In 1986, a botanist conducting an inventory in southwestern Washington found a small population of this lupine by an old cemetery in the Boistfort Valley. It was the first observation of this species in the state, representing the northern extent of its known global distribution, and its discovery initiated intensive and ongoing surveys of this isolated prairie remnant. Nine rare plant species have now been found within a couple of miles of that first discovery. Another one of these, Nelson’s checkermallow (Sidalcea nelsoniana), is also federally listed as threatened under the ESA.

The owners of a dairy farm where a large population of Kincaid’s lupine grows were excited to learn about the rare species on their property, and they have become passionate about its conservation. They initiated a “Lupine Field Day” and invited the public for a tour of their farm to see the lupine and other prairie plants. Their land management of carefully controlled grazing for their organic dairy appears to present ideal conditions for the lupine, which is thriving under their care.

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