Spring is a little showier around here these days, thanks to the efforts of plant specialists at the University of Maryland, College Park. The staff at UM's Arboretum and Botanical Garden have tracked down and rescued or preserved dozens of patches of an increasingly rare wildflower known as the sundial lupine.
The meadow-loving plant with tall clusters of purple flowers has been under siege from mowing, herbicides, invasive plants, deer grazing and development. As with much in nature, the wildflower's decline has affected frosted elfin butterflies, which prefer lupines for food and habitat.
Maryland's Natural Heritage Program had an old list of 22 lupine patches, but hadn't been able to check up on most because of staff shortages, according to a UM release. Sara Tangren, an adjunct professor at UM and project leader for the arboretum, took up the search, conducting interviews and scanning aerial photos to find 29 more sites around the state.
Tangren enlisted the help of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to rescue one sickly patch growing on a rocky knoll under power lines in Harwood north of the city. The utility altered its right-of-way maintenance practices there, and by last year flowers covered nearly an acre - the only known lupines in Baltimore County. BGE made similar accommodations for a patch in Odenton in Anne Arundel County.
According to Tangren, with the cooperation of BGE and others, there are now five secure lupine sites and 22 rescued patches around Maryland.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun