I was as excited on Saturday when I found this flower as a prospector who finds a gold nugget. This is a flower I’ve often admired in books but never saw until that day, and it’s every bit as gorgeous as illustrated, although this sketch doesn’t do it justice. The name is very fitting since it is very gaudy. Later on I did a larger painting but even though the color of the flowers came out better, the composition did not. So now I have to remember where I found these and hope they show up again next year so I can try them again, since they were at the end of their blooming season on Saturday.
One of the interesting things about lupines is that the colors of the blossoms change after pollination. In the blue lupines the white disappears and the whole bloom becomes blue, and in this one the unpollinated blossoms have a yellow flag as a signal to insects, and after pollination the flag turns scarlet, which is a color hummingbirds can see, but most insects can’t see. It’s a very efficient way of telling pollinators where the nectar actually is and where they are wasting their energy. Here the bottom right flower still has a yellow flag while the bottom left and top right have turned scarlet. The top left is just beginning to turn scarlet. If I get a decent painting I’ll post it where the whole pollination color changes can be seen more clearly. I was in a hurry when I did this as the flower was wilting right before my eyes, as many wild flowers do as soon as picked.