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Voices of Spencer Creek

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Fender's Blue, a Nine Day Wonder

Two rare species' life cycles are intertwined.

By Lois Barton

Posted on May 10, 2006

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"Fender's Blue Butterfly Emerging," photo © by Alan D. St. John, courtesy of The Nature Conservancy

There is a very rare small blue butterfly, endemic to the Willamette Valley and on the endangered species list, living in and near the wetlands of west Eugene. It lays its eggs under the leaves and the emerging larva feed exclusively on a variety of perennial lupine which also grows on the native upland prairies contiguous to those wetlands. The larvae hide in lupine leaf litter during the winter and feed some more on new spring leaves of lupine. If emerging females find mates and drink nectar from prairie checker mallow, wild onion, blue camas or a select few other flowers, they are able to triple their egg production. The adult butterfly lives for only nine days in mid-May through early June.

The plant, Kincaid's lupine, as well as the Willamette daisy are in the same situation. Their natural habitat (drier prairie and wet prairie respectively) has been so impacted by human growth patterns as to be hard-pressed for any remaining suitable ground to grow on.

A unique quartet of concerned citizens in this community working under the name Preferred Future has undertaken a campaign to educate the rest of us about this butterfly. Speaking with one of the quartet members I was told that there are actually four such small creatures in the area all threatened with extinction.

The Native American practice of burning the Willamette Valley each year to improve their hunting access probably increased these species as it kept the grassy habitat from becoming forested. Now, nearly two hundred years later, only tiny spots still have small surviving colonies. One of these areas is in west Eugene wetlands and contiguous upland prairies. Fire suppresion, plowing and cropping the Valley by the early settlers threatened these unique life forms which, at one time, were widespread in western Oregon and Washington states. Urbanization, roads and succession to ash or other bottom land forests further reduced and fragmented their habitatats. A handful of pastures, hay fields and fence rows are the only place where the plants have kept a foothold. No research has been done on mortality of Fender's blue butterfly crossing roads or highways. Illinois research indicates that butterfly mortality rate can be very high.

The Preferred Future folks are committed to an educational campaign in addition to research into additional ways to preserve and enlarge current populations.

The US Fish and Wildlife people have prepared a map showing where these plants and butterflies currently exist. Our Preferred Future quartet has spent $15,000 on staff research time to add to the government program of care for the endangered items. They have added details to the Forest Service map based on their research. They have proposed a variety of ways to increase both the existing spots and find new locations. They are opposing the proposed West Eugene Parkway which would seriously divide the present location of butterflies and their Kincaid lupine food source.

Preferred Futures is raising money for more research and suggesting that interested individuals cultivate clumps of the lupines by transplanting small starts to where they could be cared for. They are educating current businesses in the area to be aware of business impact on their fragile neighbors. One fund raising method is using credit cards for purchases which contribute a percentage of the purchase value to this research project.

(You may contact John Allcott at Preferred Futures by e-mailing him at about protecting Fender's Blues. You may sign up with E-scrip ( and choose the Preferred Futures - Fenders Blue Butterfly project for your credit cards.)

Also see John Allcott's article at
These Small Blue Beings

Copyright ©2006 by Lois Barton

Writer and historian
Lois Barton

Lois Barton is an 88 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life-long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton, including:

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Frannie and the Arrow

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Bhavia's Cambodia

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of the Smoking Chimney

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Saga of Big Oak Stables

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Fishy Story

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Different Peace

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Hal and the Mountain

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: A Rogue River Adventure

Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Obituary for a Country Cat

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Cortesia Sanctuary

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Tree and Me and Lady Slippers

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Cranberries

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Endurance Riding

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Butterflies and Community Development

and The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Last Gift.

See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:

Visit the Heron Rookery

Sauerkraut and All That

Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?

The Midwife–The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.

The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.

Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By

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