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Mr. Smarty Plants - Taking bluebonnets to Anchorage AK from Sealy TX

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Thursday - June 10, 2010

From: Sealy, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Wildflowers
Title: Taking bluebonnets to Anchorage AK from Sealy TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Moving to Anchorage Alaska from Texas and I am bringing bluebonnet seeds to plant there. Will the moose eat these plants/flowers?

ANSWER:

We were in Anchorage just about this time last year (early June), and saw many beautiful members of the Lupinus genus that, had we not known better, would have thought they were Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), What we did not see were moose roaming the streets and grocery shopping in yards, which is a good thing. If a grown moose comes into your vicinity, you have much worse things to worry about than your flowers. They are LARGE and not very good-natured. Also, all members of the Lupinus genus are poisonous, and the moose have probably learned that, or have it in their genetic code or something.

While we were there, we visited the Museum in Anchorage (don't miss that) and purchased a copy of A Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers, see Bibliography below.  As we took the train first to Seward and then to Denali, we saw many, many of these flowers along the rail tracks. One thing you need to know is that South Central Alaska is basically a swamp. It is very low in altitude, and there are rivers and seacoast that contribute to that. Their average high temperatures range from 21 in December to 64 in July. The Texas Bluebonnet is endemic to Texas, and as you can see from this USDA Plant Profile, it lives in areas that are far warmer.

Our Native Plants Database lists four members of the genus Lupinus native to Alaska: Lupinus arcticus (arctic lupine), Lupinus nootkatensis (Nootka lupine), Lupinus nootkatensis var. fruticosus (Nootka lupine) and Lupinus polyphyllus (bigleaf lupine). Of these, only Lupinus arcticus (arctic lupine) and Lupinus nootkatensis (Nootka lupine) are discussed in the book. Nootka lupine must have been what we were seeing, as Arctic lupine does not grow in the southern coastal areas.

So, let's compare growing conditions for the Texas Bluebonnet and the Nootka Lupine. 

Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet)

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Limestone/chalky, Sandy Loam, Limestone-based, Calcareous, Sandy, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche 

Lupinus nootkatensis (Nootka lupine)

Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Description: Gravelly soils. 

So, to answer your specific question: Will the moose eat your Texas bluebonnets? Don't much think so, especially since we are not at all sure they would even come up in the wrong soil, wrong climate, wrong seasons, different from what they are acclimated to over millennia. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. The Texas Bluebonnet is our poster plant for this practice. We recommend you go native in Alaska.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Lupinus texensis

Lupinus texensis

Lupinus nootkatensis

Lupinus nootkatensis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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