A Different Kind of Cereal by Rita Smith

July 2016 lupine by Fred Wooley
Lupine in July by Fred Wooley

Snap! Crackle! Pop! I know of one cereal that makes this sound after milk has been poured onto it and then, by turning an ear to the cereal bowl, it is heard. Snap! Crackle! Pop! The other day I was in a dry, outdoor environment but I heard that same sound very clearly. And the other oddity is that I was not eating cereal, but picking Wild Lupine seedpods at Badger Barrens!


What a great experience I had picking seedpods that day, not even imaging the intricacies of seeds from this wildflower, wild lupine, Lupinus perennis. I had always admired the beauty of the flower when I first saw it blooming at the Aullwood Adubon Center and Farm, on its 15-acre prairie plot, in Dayton, Ohio. I participated in a college internship there and had never seen some of the prairie plants growing there and Wild Lupine was on of those plants. Then, when I visited a college friend who lived in Dallas, Texas, as the plane was landing (this was the month of April), a riot of of blue caught my eye from all of the Texas Bluebonnets in bloom, a cousin to the lupine. What a beauty it was!


Badger Barrens and lupine seeds scattered on the ground   6_17_2016 002 Fred Wooley
Lupine seeds scattered on the ground by Fred Wooley


So, when I had the chance to collect seedpods from the wild lupine, I was ready to observe and learn more about the plant. This wildflower is in the pea family as has a beautiful blue, pea-like flower in an upright, terminal cluster, or raceme, anywhere from 4-10″ tall. The leaf is attractive also as it doesn’t abide by the rules of a typical leaf. The Lupine leaf has 7-11 lance shaped leaflets all radiating out from a central location. It look similar to when a person spreads their fingers out and each finger is one of the leaflets. Interesting flower, interesting leaf.


The plant enjoys growing in dry open woods and fields. That’s why Badger Barrens is perfect for the lupine. It is a sandy savannah that once had been cleared for farmland. When Blue Heron acquired the property in 2007, its facelift began and now wild lupine grows with other tall grasses and wildflowers in the sandy soil.


And what about the seedpod? After all, I did mention I collected seedpods; seedpods for Blue Heron Ministries to dry, cold stratify, start the seeds, and then plant plugs of the lupine on other maintained properties. The fruit of the plant looks like a hairy bean pod about two inches long, and when ripe, is brown.


Badger Barrens lupine seed in the bag 6_17_2016fjw  photo 2 Fred Wooley
Collected lupine seedpods by Fred Wooley


So, while a co-worker and I were collecting these pods, occasionally I would hear a snap, or a pop. At first, I thought it might be an insect, but the more I focused on the sound paused, and observed, I saw something movie in front of my eyes. I continued to watch and even stood up to look at the ground in front of me. I was right next to the path and bare ground could be seen. I notices something round and cream colored on a portion of the ground. Then it happened! “Snap” as the seed flew out of the dried pod, “crackle” as the seed passed through and brushed against other plant material, and “pop” as the seed settled on the ground. Just like the cereal! Fred and I discussed this amazing feat as we continues to collect. It seemed the warmer the morning became, the more likely to hear the seed snap out of its pod. it was reminiscent of a kernel of popcorn exploding. the snap of the lupine seed also reminded me of a native shrub that has a similar behavior, the common witchhazel. I used to share its story with school groups that the seedpod of witchhazel, when ripe, will open and pop out its seed as far as 20 feet. when it drops onto dry leaf litter in a fall forest it makes a crackling sound as is a bit spooky, which could be one reason for its common name.


Once we finished our seed collecting in our brown paper bags, closing the bags we headed back to the truck. On the drive to the barn where we were to leave the seedpods, every once in a while we would hear a snap inside the brown bag! Again, the explosion of the seed sounded like popcorn. We just smiled at the sound, knowing full well now what we did not know at the beginning of our day, that the wild lupine seedpod was just doing its “snap, crackle, and pop” routine! Mark you calendars for June of 2017 where you, too, can take a hike at Badger Barrens and hear the sound of the wild lupine!

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