Coming to the Rescue of Gulf Coast Lupine

The Rare Plant Conservation Program (RPCP) at Bok Tower Gardens is working to rescue numerous Gulf Coast Lupine plants, (Lupinus westianus) from an area that will be expanded to provide parking and public beach access in Walton County. Gulf Coast Lupine (Fabaceae) is a state threatened species endemic to the western panhandle of Florida and found on coastal sand dunes. The greatest threat of extinction for this species is the destruction of dune habitat for development (i.e. homes, condos, beach resorts, etc.). Walton County has 26 miles of beachfront property, much of which is privately owned. Private ownership of beachfront property in Florida can extend across the dry sand to the high water shoreline, and property owners commonly restrict access to the public.

In 2018, “customary use” ordinances allowing public access to privately owned beaches were nullified by House Bill 631. Consequently, Walton County, an area that serves a high level of tourism, has been pressured to increase public beach access. As a result, the upper dune that supports habitat for Gulf Coast Lupine and other dune species are under greater threat of loss, and of experiencing the fate of the site of the rescue effort. The rescue site, currently a healthy dune habitat, will be converted into additional parking for the beach access.

The details for the rescue of the Gulf Coast Lupine plants are currently being evaluated as transplantation of lupine plants is generally not successful. The RPCP is also reviewing opportunities to reintroduce the species back into the site following construction. Stay tuned for updates as the RPCP team works to protect Gulf Coast Lupine for future generations to enjoy.

Blog was written by Whitney Costner, Rare Plant Conservation Biologist at Bok Tower Gardens. Photos are provided by Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia,