A field of blue lupine in full bloom is a sight to behold! The Albany Pine Bush in the shadow of Albany, New York’s Capital City, is a unique pitch pine ecosystem where the blue lupine thrives in the sandy soils and open meadows of the preserve. This fire adapted ecosystem thrives on disturbance that keeps this forest in early successional stages.
The blue lupine is the host plant of the Karner blue butterfly, that is on the endangered species list. The success of these efforts is witnessed by the hundreds of Karner blue butterflies that can be seen fluttering among the blue lupine flowers. Two generations of butterflies are produced each season; The first generation of caterpillars hatch from overwintering eggs, eat lupine leaves, pupate and emerge as adults around the time the blue lupine flowers bloom in mid to late May and the second generation emerges in July.
The frosted elfin is another threatened butterfly species whose host plant is the blue lupine and the wild blue indigo. Interestingly enough the two complement one another; the frosted elfin caterpillars feed on the flowers and seedpods and the Karner blue caterpillars feed on the leaves. The frosted elfin has one brood per season and rarely collects nectar.
The pollinators of the blue lupine are not actually butterflies, but bees! Queen bumblebees, with full pollen baskets, can be seen hovering with extended tongue to partake in the sweet nectar. The bounty these flowers provide will help the queen bumblebee feed her developing brood of worker bees. The non-native honey bee is also seen frequenting these flowers.
Due to recent efforts, 3,200 acres of pitch pine forest have been preserved and managed in the Albany Pine Bush area and another 2,300 acres in the Wilton Wildlife Preserve near Saratoga.