Speyeria zerene hippolyta
This butterfly is as beautiful as it is rare. It is identified by its relatively small size with orange and brown wings. There are black veins and dark spots on the upper wing surface. The underside of the wings have silver-colored spots.
Because the butterfly larva relies on the Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca) as a food source, it is naturally confined to a very small range where this flower grows, including sandy dunes, marine terraces and coastal headlands with sun-lit meadows. In the entirety of Oregon, only a handful of habitats for this butterfly have been identified, which has caused the animal to be listed as “Threatened” by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium has worked with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon Zoo on a long-term project designed to bolster the butterfly’s numbers. The Aquarium has helped to cultivate the Early Blue Violet while the zoo has raised the butterfly larvae. Once mature specimens are available, they are released into the appropriate habitat so they can continue to breed and increase the species numbers.
Historically, the butterfly has been found from the state of Washington to Del Norte County in California. However, all of these populations were confined to coastal areas around salt-spray meadows or similar habitat. Currently, the only viable population in Oregon is located in Tillamook County.
Threatened wherever found.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mike Patterson and the US Fish & Wildlife, Oregon Office.
Related Information: Saving the Silverspot