Thank you once again to Priscilla Burcher of Colombia (aka Priscilla Burcher@Flickr) for today's photograph, taken a couple months ago: Lupinus bogotensis, shared via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool. Much appreciated!
Worldwide, Lupinus contains about 250 species, with two main centres of diversity: western North America and the Andes. A few species are also native to the Mediterranean region, tropical African highlands, eastern South America and southeastern USA. Lupinus bogotensis, as its name suggests, is part of the rich Andean grouping (native to Bolivia, Colombia, and Ecuador). Its common names in Colombia include altramuz and chochitos.
The 70-80 species of Lupinus found in the Andes are all thought to be derived from a single ancestral species that initially colonized the region 1.18-1.76 million years ago. The rapid evolution of new species is associated with new upland island-like habitats available in the region after the uplifting of the Andes, thought to provide new ecological opportunities (and hence radiation of species to exploit these new opportunities). High rates of speciation in the Andes is not restricted to Lupinus, as other genera like Valeriana and Gentianella also display the phenomenon--but none so high as Lupinus. In fact, at the time of publication (and perhaps still), this adaptive radiation of Lupinus is the highest rate of speciation known to occur in vascular plants. See: Hughes, C. and R. Eastwood. 2006. Island radiation on a continental scale: Exceptional rates of plant diversification after uplift of the Andes. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 103(27):10334-10339. doi:10.1073/pnas.0601928103 . (link to abstract). Incidentally, this study was supported by the provision of plant material from UBC Botanical Garden. We grow few, if any, Andean Lupinus species, but the Garden did provide some western North American Lupinus and other fabaceous species to use as outgroups (which help calibrate the statistical analyses to determine relationships between species).
Lupinus bogotensis has been assessed by the IUCN Red List as "least concern", as it is widespread and abundant in its range. It has been observed in "grasslands, Páramo, sub-alpine forest and secondary vegetation along exposed roadsides", so unlike many other Andean Lupinus species, it seems to have evolved to be a generalist and occupy many ecological niches.