California False Indigo and the Dogface Butterfly at Shutamul
by John Nitta
On June 26th, Sarah and I had a unique opportunity to experience first-hand, up close and personal, a rare California plant and some pretty neat wildlife. This all took place at the Placer Land Trust’s Shutamul Bear River Preserve.
First of all, a couple of questions:
- What is the California State butterfly?
- What host plant is exclusive to this butterfly?
The title of this blog answers it all. We were very fortunate to hit this site at the “right time, right place.” Within a couple of minutes of parking at the site, we noticed the butterflies – active adults, both male and female. And the north facing slope, under the cover of Black oaks and Grey pines, was cover with an understory of Amorpha californica, the California False Indigo. Amongst the Amorpha was Heteromeles (Toyon) and Ribes (Currant) and plenty of poison oak.
We were surrounded by Amorpha on this hillside
Six of us visited the site. Besides Sarah and myself - there were three from Placer Land Trust – Justin Wages and Jeff Ward, staffers at PLT, and Kristin Haider, an intern serving through Americorp, and last but not least, Deren Ross, local Audubon member and bird/lepidoptera expert. Justin coordinated the visit and little did he know that we were to hit paydirt right away.
Almost immediately, within a minute of parking, we noticed the Dogface butterfly adults flying about. Justin and Deren immediately went into action – Justin pursuing the butterfly – hoping to catch in on film, and Deren, with his butterfly net, hoping to catch and release one, after an up-close-and-personal look. Jeff and Kristin had monitoring duties in another section of the preserve, so the remaining four of us continued on.
Deren caught this fine male Dogface butterfly
I was looking closely for any flowers/seed heads remaining from the recent spring bloom. At first, I only saw green leaves. We noticed the leaves were very much intact and not chewed-on yet; so we deduced the larvae were not active yet. Then I saw some spikes on a few plants, some with intact seeds still on! The seeds were 95% dispersed, but enough was left on the plants we encountered to collect a few hundred.
Amorpha californica seed spike
It is a goal of Placer Land Trust and a pet project of Justin’s, to establish a demonstration garden with Amorpha californica so the general public can see and learn about this rare plant and butterfly in our own Placer County. It is a very exciting project, one that will put Placer County as a destination for native plant and butterfly enthusiasts’ from all over.
We were so fortunate to have seen the adult Dogface butterflies, and Justin and Deren definitely have plans to revisit the site periodically throughout the year to monitor and observe the other stages of the Dogface butterfly’s life cycle. I’ll keep you posted of the development of this exciting project!
Coyote Mint - another favorite of Dogface butterflies
Reply #1 on : Thu March 25, 2010, 13:37:41
Write a comment
- Required fields are marked with *.