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Kincaid's lupine

Photo of Kincaid's Lupine (USFWS)

Scientific name: Lupinus sulphureus ssp. kincaidii


Critical Habitat: Designated

Listing: Kincaid's lupine was federally listed as threatened in 2000. Critical habitat was designated in 2006.

Potential Range Map 

  • Description and Life History

    Kincaid's lupine is a perennial species in the pea or legume family (Fabaceae) Kincaid's lupine is easily distinguished from other species of lupine because it is low growing and has an unbranched flower stalk. Its aromatic flowers have a slightly reflexed, distinctly ruffled banner and are yellowish-cream colored, often showing shades of blue on the keel. The leaflets are deep green with a smooth upper surface. The plants are low-growing, 16-30 inches, with flowering stems that exceed the height of the branched crown. Flowering typically occurs in May and June. Seeds are dispersed from fruits that open explosively upon drying.


    Kincaid's lupine is found mainly in the Willamette Valley, Oregon where it occupies native grassland habitats. Kincaid's lupine is typically found in native upland prairie with the dominant species being red fescue (Festuca rubra) and/or Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis). Tolmie's mariposa (Calochortus tolmiei),Hooker's catchfly (Silene hookeri), broadpetal strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), rose checker-mallow (Sidalcea virgata), and common lomatium (Lomatium spp.) serve as herbaceous indicator species. These dry, fescue prairies make up the majority of habitat for Kincaid's lupine. Although Kincaid's lupine is occasionally found on steep, south-facing slopes and barren rocky cliffs, it does not appear capable of occupying the most xeric oatgrass communities on these south facing slopes. The plant's distribution implies a close association with native upland prairie sites that are characterized by heavier soils and mesic to slightly xeric soil moisture levels. At the southern limit of its range, this species occurs on well-developed soils adjacent to serpentine outcrops (high in magnesium, iron and certain toxic metals) where it is often found under scattered oaks.

    Reasons for Decline

    Native prairie has been virtually eliminated from the Willamette Valley as a result of conversion to agriculture, urbanization, and other development. Most Willamette Valley grasslands are seral (one stage in a sequential progression), requiring natural or human-induced disturbance for their maintenance. Grasslands by nature are a transient community which require disturbance to prevent transition to forest. The vast majority of Willamette Valley grasslands would be forested if left undisturbed. Native Americans probably maintained Willamette Valley prairies by manipulating fire regimes prior to European settlement. With extensive changes in the fire regime, disturbance forces that maintained native prairies were substantially altered allowing tree and shrub species to invade and shade out the low-growing Kincaid's lupine. In addition, non-native species such as Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor) aggressively overtake open spaces and crowd out native species.

    Loss of native prairie results in the separation of lupine populations which were once inter-connected. As the number of sites declines and the distance between them increases, the opportunities for dispersal of seeds between populations is reduced. Populations isolated in this manner face a higher chance of extirpation, since they are no longer part of a larger, more stable population.

    Conservation Measures

    Natural processes which functioned to maintain open grasslands have been altered to the point that intervention is needed to prevent further loss. Historically, large-scale fire played a role in maintaining grasslands in an open state. Today, grassland remnants are no longer maintained by fire due to suppression efforts. Where possible, controlled burning or careful mowing and hand clearing are used to manage grassland ecosystems. However, Kincaid's lupine is host to the endangered Fender's blue butterfly; thus, management actions have to be carefully planned in order to avoid harming the butterfly.


    Kincaid's lupine occupies sites throughout the Willamette Valley, a few sites in the Umpqua River Basin, and one site in southern Washington. The northern limit of Kincaid's lupine is Lewis County, Washington, and it ranges south to Douglas County, Oregon.

    References and Links

    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2000. Endangered Status for Erigeron decumbens var. decumbens(Willamette Daisy) and Fender's Blue Butterfly (Icaricia icarioides fenderi) and Threatened Status forLupinus sulphureus ssp. kincaidii (Kincaid's Lupine). Federal Register 65:3875-3890.


    Last updated: November 2019

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