There are more than 130 species of lupine in California alone. These members of Fabaceae, the Legume or Pea Family, look very similar and are, at least for me, difficult to identify. My lupine posts are usually of those species that are easily identified.
In July, Leonard and I found a lupine with bright yellow flowers on the North Shore Trail at Castle Lake in the Shasta Trinity National Forest, Siskiyou County CA: saffron-flowered lupine (Lupinus croceus), also commonly called Mount Eddy lupine. This native perennial is endemic to the mountains of Suskiyou and Trinity Counties in California. Its habitat is dry, rocky places between 5,000 and 8,000 feet.
A hairy, erect plant, saffron-flowered lupine has stems branching from the base. The alternate leaves are palmate with 5 to 9 leaflets. The terminal inflorescence is a raceme, unbranched with flowers maturing upward from below.
Like all lupines, saffron-flowered lupine has a characteristic pea-like flower with five petals, the lower two fused into a keel, the larger upper petal forming a banner and the other two petals forming wings on either side of the keel. (see “Pea Flower Arrangement” on 11-20-2017) Ten stamens are hidden inside the keel and the superior ovary is inside a tube of nine partially fused stamens. The tenth stamen is free. The flowers are a bright yellow to orange color.
The seeds of saffron-flowered lupine are hairy pods containing mottled tan seeds.
Lupines are especially valuable to pollinators such as native bees and bumblebees.
The species designation, croceus, means saffron colored and refers to the bright flowers.