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A sub-shrubby plant from 11⁄2 to 3 ft high, woody at the base; young shoots silky-hairy. Leaves digitate, made up of five to seven leaflets, which are lanceolate, abruptly pointed, tapered at the base, 1⁄2 to 11⁄4 in. long, 1⁄8 to 1⁄4 in. wide, silvery with appressed hairs on both surfaces; main-stalk 1⁄2 to 1 in. long. Raceme 3 to 6 in. long, erect, slender, the flowers more or less whorled, each on a silky stalk which is 1⁄4 in. long and bears a silky linear bract at the base of the flower. Corolla 5⁄8 in. long, the standard petal blue or lilac with a large yellow blotch at the base; wing petals and keel of the same blue or lilac shade, both paling towards the base. Calyx 1⁄4 in. long, two-lipped. Pods 1 to 11⁄4 in. long, 3⁄16 to 1⁄4 in. wide, silky. Bot. Mag., t. 8657.
Native of California, often on sandy hill-slopes near the shore between San Francisco and San Diego; also of a few places along the coast in Washington. Although originally described in 1826, about which period it was collected by David Douglas, it never appears to have been common in cultivation. Its combination of silvery leaves and blue or lavender-coloured flowers is very charming. As is the case with so many Californian shrubs cultivated in this country, its tenure no doubt is shortened by lack of sunshine. But I do not think the shrubby lupins are ever particularly long-lived in our gardens. L. chamissonis should be planted in well-drained soil at the foot of a sunny south wall. It has been confused in gardens with L. argenteus, another silver-leaved but more herbaceous species, a native of the inner ranges of western N. America. L. chamissonis is distinguished amongst the silvery lupins by the large yellow blotch on the standard petal. It flowers at Kew from June onwards till autumn and ripens seed there.
† L. albifrons Lindl. – This is closely allied to L. chamissonis, differing in the absence of a conspicuous yellow blotch at the base of the standard and in the ciliate keel (glabrous or almost so in L. chamissonis). Native of California, mostly away from the coast, also extending into Oregon; introduced by Douglas. It is somewhat variable and several varieties have been distinguished. It needs the same conditions as its ally.