Wild lupines in High Park’s restored oak savannah

In High Park, June 2015 – a patch of spontaneously regenerated wild lupines (Lupinus perennis)

I’ve seen wild lupines in Iceland and in Nova Scotia. But I had no idea that Ontario was also a habitat for this lovely legume (Lupinus perennis). Then we visited High Park this June with the Toronto Fling and learned how efforts to restore the native black oak savannah there is helping native wild lupines spontaneously regenerate. What better day to talk about this than Wildflower Wednesday!

Blue flowers get me right here (pounds heart) – how about you? To see them pushing their little blue heads up between the grasses made me very happy. We couldn’t get too close, not wanting to stomp on these gentle refugees. If you want to know more about them, or are wondering why lupines are named after wolves, skip over to this link on Wild lupines from the High Park Nature Centre.

Jennifer Gibb, a natural resource specialist with the City of Toronto, walked us through a couple of sites to talk about their restoration work – successes and challenges. Until people stepped in a few years ago, High Park was being trampled by humans as well as being overrun by invasive species. The link in my first paragraph gives you a more complete story.
Wild lupines are one of the successes. The hope is that this small patch will continue to grow and expand. Watch where you step. And, please, don’t pick them! If you want to try growing your own, why not order seed through Wildflower Farm.
They use various techniques to get rid of the bad guys. Covering the ground with black plastic or tarp smothers or solarizes (which, basically, means “cooks”) the unwanted vegetation beneath. Still, as you can see, plants excel at finding the gaps.
Our bloggers wend their way past a giant oak tree to reach the fenced-off site where major restoration initiatives have begun, removing invaders, planting native trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, and helping them become established.
This is just a small sample of the damage that alien oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) can do to a tree when it escapes into the wild. At its worst, it can create vast, impenetrable canopies, literally choking out and smothering native plants. Kellie Sherman of the Ontario Invasive Plant Council gave us the lowdown.

The “bittersweet” truth is that we often inadvertently introduce menaces into wild spaces, simply by making the wrong plant choices at home. Birds can spread bad seeds far and wee. Kellie talked about about the Invasive Plant Council’s excellent guide Grow Me Instead! which suggests safe alternatives.

Some plants we want to spread. Some, we don’t. I’m grateful for the efforts of all the people who help restore our lost native habitats and species. That could even be the efforts of you and me!


  1. I was quite surprised by some of the plants in the Grow Me Instead guide – I have at least two popular ones in my garden (periwinkle & euonymus) and it never occurred to me that they would have ended up on that list.

    1. It's the winged euonymus or burning bush (Euonymus alata) that can be invasive, thanks to the seeds ingested and, um, distributed by birds. An all the things that make periwinkle a good plant for tough places make it a tough-to-get-rid-of plant in wild spaces. You're probably okay with the latter, if you live far from the wilds. Not so with burning bush if conditions are right for seedlings. The one I used to have seeded itself liberally in my dry shade garden.

    2. Thank you for the clarification on those Helen….I saw euonymus and missed the winged bit! Mine is definitely not the winged euonymus and I think I may keep the periwinkle then – it's in a border along a north wall & hasn't really caused any issue in the seven years we've been here.

  2. Those lupines at High Park impressed me so much. I too have burning bush and periwinkle. However, there are no wild lands nearby and burning bush seed does not seem to take easily in this area. Though I would take down the burning bush if Judy would let me.

    1. We live within bird-flying distance to a number of ravines in the east end of Toronto, so I'm glad my burning bush succumbed to drought one year. Seedlings still pop up from time to time, though.

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