Outdoors Q&A: When will the lupine bloom in the Foothills?

Q: With the warm winter/spring we’ve had, do you think that the lupines in Miller s Gulch will come early? I’d hate to miss them if they come before Mother’s Day.

A: An excellent question that I am sure other people are asking as well. I posed this to Edna Rey-Vizgirdas, who is a botanist for the Boise National Forest, and the short answer is yes, the lupine will likely bloom earlier this year.

“I am expecting everything to be about a month earlier than usual,” she said.

Many of the spring wildflowers are now blooming, including arrowleaf balsamroot, which has a distinct yellow flower similar in shape to a daisy, and the self-described large, arrow-shaped leaf. There’s also flox, which is a small purple flower, milkvetch, another purple flower, bitterbrush, and many others.

But I can understand why you want to see the lupine. Of all the Foothills wildflowers, they are the most impressive because they turn entire hillsides into a lush blanket of color. It’s amazing how dramatically the Foothills can change from their usual drab tan to a palette of color in the spring.

It may be hard to say exactly when they will bloom. Rey-Vizgirdas said the timing depends on many factors, including air and soil temperatures, soil moisture and length of daylight.

Then there are micro climates caused by elevation and aspect that can also affect the timing. Plants on a sunny, south-facing slope at lower elevation in the Foothills will bloom sooner than plants higher in the Foothills on north-facing slopes. The beauty of that is it prolongs the wildflower season that much longer.

But it’s a safe bet you will see them sooner than in the past years, so you will probably want to start watching well before Mother’s Day weekend.