One of the loveliest butterflies in the San Francisco Bay Area is the mission blue. Hikers who venture south of the city to San Bruno Mountain or north to the Marin Headlands are sometimes lucky enough to encounter the iridescent, inch-wide insect (as I did a couple of weekends ago).
But the butterfly, an endangered species since 1976, has all but disappeared from the city itself, mostly because development and El Nino-related storms have wiped out the lupine flowers it needs to survive.
Now, with the help of volunteers, lupines and the butterfly have been restored to the Twin Peaks area of San Francisco.
Over the last several years, volunteers and staff with the city Recreation and Parks department’s Natural Areas Program collected lupine seed from San Bruno Mountain and planted it on Twin Peaks, returning repeatedly to nurture the lupines and clear away non-native plants that would have choked out the flowers. Last year, after deciding the lupines were firmly established, the city got permission from the feds to capture pregnant mission blues on San Bruno Mountain and transport them to Twin Peaks. Just a few weeks ago, naturalists swarmed Twin Peaks to check for this year’s offspring, and there they were—thriving mission blue butterflies, back at home.
Here’s to all the science volunteers who make time to tend our planet!