The Lupin Flower Displays of New Zealand.

From around September through to February the beautiful wild lupin flowers of the McKenzie Basin in New Zealand's South Island, are at their peak. In this blog we discuss the future of these magnificent displays, a future that is less than certain.

Depending on weather conditions the lupin season usually lasts from September to February. 

However, the much admired lupin has stirred up some controversy, as the following story from the New Zealand website "weedbuster" explains.

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They may be stunningly beautiful, but South Island’s Russell lupins are threatening natural areas as they spread along roadsides and into local river systems.

"Canterbury and Otago’s South Island braided rivers, as they are known, are stony bottomed and change course depending on the water flow. 

When the gravel islands in these braided rivers are bare of vegetation, they provide safe nesting havens for endangered birds, such as dotterels and wrybills. It allows them to spot predators such as stoats before they are close enough to catch them. 

But Russell lupins growing on the banks of the rivers provide cover for predators, putting them within striking distance of the small islands where birds have nested

The lupins also interfere with waterflow along these rivers, causing sand and gravel to build up, contributing to flooding and erosion and altering the shape of the rivers. 

So how do these roadside lupins make it to the braided river systems? Well, Russell lupins produce a large number of seeds every year, and while they spread naturally by water and by the explosion of the pods that contain the seeds, humans have also played a part in moving them from place to place. 

Stories abound of local folk back in the day spreading the seeds in an attempt to ‘beautify’ roadside areas, and of tourists being encouraged to throw seeds out the window to ‘brighten things up’.

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Whether these stories are fact or fiction, it is certainly true that not that long ago, packets of lupin seeds labelled as ‘NZ Wildflowers’ were being sold at tourist stops, alongside seeds for flowering natives such as kowhai and kaka beak. 

Now days, with visitors regularly pulling off the roads in this area to admire the pink and purple of the lupins in flower, it is also possible that seeds are being moved by vehicle tires from one place to another.

Whatever the reasons, and however they are still being spread, it’s been decided that they are also a threat. Yes, lupins are beautiful, but their beastly behaviour makes them more of a perennial pest than a picturesque photo shot". 

As a result, serious moves are afoot to start an eradication program. 

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It might be a case of enjoying these stunning lupin vistas while we can.

Lindsay Barron

Lindsay Barron • Aug 04, 2022