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White wonder grows at Highbush

Posted: August 13, 2012 - 8:38am
Mark Howell poses behind some white lupines, the result of genetic variation, near his home at Highbush Lane.  Dan Schwartz
Dan Schwartz
Mark Howell poses behind some white lupines, the result of genetic variation, near his home at Highbush Lane.

Mark Howell, 58, who lives at the end of Highbush Lane, is baffled by the white lupines growing across the street.

“I came across those white ones,” he said about the first patch he discovered, “and I don’t know where the heck they came from.”

He has thick rows of purple lupines growing next to his house, but this is the first year he has ever seen white ones — and he has been living on Highbush since the 1960s.

His only guess at their origin is the birds. He thinks they ate the seeds from the patch growing behind his house and then deposited them across the street. But he isn’t sure.

His white lupines, however, may not be the Kenai Peninsula phenomena he thinks they are. 

Agricultural and Horticulturist Extension Agent Lydia Clayton said Howell’s white lupines are a matter of genetic variation.

It is the same as human genetics, Clayton said. 

“We end up with eye color and hair color based on our genetics,” she said, and the same is true for plants.

She said there are other patches of white lupines around the Peninsula, but they are indeed rare.

However, she doubts birds could have deposited the lupine seeds. “They might be poisonous to them actually,” she said.

But Howell is excited, and now, he said, a little patch is flowering down the street by the stop sign. 

“It’s right in the middle of all the plants,” he said.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at

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