Each year, one of the beautiful signs of summertime in Northern Minnesota is the annual lupine bloom. Roadsides and ditches along the Lake Superior North Shore are covered with a stunning carpet of purple, pink, and white hues as these hardy flowers signal summertime in the Northland.

These beautiful flowers have become synonymous with summer on the North Shore, but they are actually a non-native species.

A non-native sight on the North Shore

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

While there are some lupine species native to Minnesota, the specific variety seen most along roadways in Northern Minnesota is non-native to Minnesota. Known as large-leaved lupine, this non-native variety was brought from the West Coast by gardeners. It has since taken a liking to the North Shore, where it can be seen covering large expanses of some open spaces like ditches.

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The plant enjoys direct sunlight, which is why it is often seen in areas like ditches where it can get a lot of the sun it desires.

In a 2022 piece from MPR, one of the experts they spoke with said that these lupines can "choke out other wildflowers", though a naturalist with the Minnesota DNR said they are "not creating a huge problem at this point".

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In the same article, a plant ecologist with the Superior National Forest says they do take steps to control the plant from time to time, occasionally spraying patches to prevent the spread into certain areas.

When do lupines bloom on the North Shore this year?

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

The normal blooming season tends to be at the tail-end of spring, or early part of summer. This places the normal blooming window between the end of May through early July.

For 2024, the bloom is just getting started along the North Shore. The cooler climate near Lake Superior puts the bloom a little behind where other lupines are seen around the state. In a spot-check conducted along parts of Highway 61 and Scenic Highway 61 between Duluth and Two Harbors, a few small patches of lupnes have started to bloom as of today (June 7).

If you're looking to see the full bloom, we're probably about a week away from seeing things really pop. From there, the next couple of weeks look to be the center of the 2024 lupine show along the North Shore, making the last two weeks of June likely to be the best viewing.

This is right in line with the timeline we've seen in the last few years, with full bloom coming in the later part of June.

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Gallery Credit: Ken Hayes

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