The Great Lupin Hunt of December 2010 . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Early in December I had to make a quick trip up to Christchurch, and on the way back I noticed a great display
of lupins just south of a village called Burke's Pass, at an altitude of about 1,000 m ( about 3,000 feet).
These are Russell lupins, and are not indigenous, so they have no particular status in law. In fact, the
Department of Conservation which manages the National Parks "likes" them so much that they spray quite
a lot with herbicide in the National Parks. The original wild plants arose from seed sown along the sides of
the highways by local farmer families, in order to brighten up the normally rather drab vegetation of these parts.
Where I found the plants in question is on the more fertile side of a dramatic boundary between two vegetation
zones; from rolling damp tussock hills, to the flat infertile rocky and wind-swept glacial moraine country
of the MacKenzie Plateau.
Here is where the lupins first came to my attention. Looking south to the South Pole !
The trees behind them are possibly European crack willlows, Salix fragilis.
Just across the highway, I noticed that the population of plants included some rather spectacular colour combinations
much better than the normal drab blue with the occasional pink and white.
A mile or so distant the landscape looks somewhat like this ...
And 30 miles to the south, south of Lake Tekapo, and showing the outline of one of the hydro canals in the distance
is this view; not quite as extreme as the view above. The more uniform blue of the lupins here is fairly clear.
Drive on the LEFT in New Zealand !! See how grazing by sheep has prevented much invasion by the lupins into the
farmland over the fences on either side of the road.
I couldn't stop and collect any on my return trip as I did not have the time, nor was there space in my fully loaded little car.
So I made a special trip back (return journey about 500 km) to collect seven nice colour combinations for our garden.
I had to collect actual plants; seed ( there wasn't any yet, in any case ) would not breed true to colour.
I discovered that the plants have relatively very large tap roots; as after the "relatively" easy extraction of some from swamp
my last chosen plant was in roadside gravel. Every stone, and they were all flat stones, were oriented with the flat side "up".
My carefully sharpened spade quickly became blunted.
Here they are!
The blue and white variety.
Light blue and white.
Purple and yellow.
Pink and white.
Light blues and white.
I brought back plants of seven colour phases. These are just six. There was also white.
Two weeks later, with lots of protection from hot sun and scorching wind, plus supply of adequate water, and it looks
as though they will all survive to flower, despite severe damage to some tap-roots. Apart from tourists who think they look
pretty neat, most locals consider them to be little better than weeds. I think they will look great in our garden.