Lupins contain a range of alkaloids, that, being toxic and bitter-tasting, deter grazers. Sparteine is a class 1a antiarrhythmic agent used to suppress abnormal rhythms of the heart, and is the most abundant alkaloid in Lupinus mutabilis.
The plant is grown as a food source in the Andes, though the bitter-tasting alkaloids are removed by soaking the beans in water. Incorrect preparation of the beans can lead to lupin poisoning.
Lupin beans contain the full range of essential amino acids and are a good source of protein and fat. Modification to reduce the alkaloid content could allow their more widespread use as food.
Lupins make very attractive garden plants, producing tall spires of thickly clustered flowers in a rainbow range of colours and bi-colours. Each flower is typical of the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) family to which Lupins belong with a wide 'flag' upper petal and a 'keel' of two fused lower petals, and are symmetrical along the vertical axis (zygomorphic). Beans and peas are also members of this economically important family.