Sea Cliff Buckwheat Missing in Action
On March 14, Megan Roy, volunteer manager at the Point Vicente Native Plant Garden, reported a missing Sea cliff buckwheat. The plant was mature and in previous years had hosted the Federally Endangered El Segundo Blue butterfly, which pupates in the soil beneath its host plant. Oddly, the area the plant was removed from had been raked and smoothed so as to not be an obvious disturbance in the garden. City of Rancho Palos Verdes staff that work in the area were helpful, but couldn’t add any details to the crime. Here’s a photo that shows the strange aftermath of the plant pilfering. We don’t know what to make of the poaching or vandalism and a sheriff’s report has been filed in order to establish the fact of the criminal act, particularly interference with a Federally Endangered species. More information about the PVIC can be found here (https://www.rpvca.gov/facilities/facility/details/point-vicente-interpretive-center-13).
The El Segundo Blue butterfly host plant is Sea cliff buckwheat (Eriogonum parvifolium) and it has made significant strides in repopulating areas from which it had been extirpated when people added back its host plant. Since restoration efforts began in 1975, the butterfly is now found at 7 sites instead of only 2! These azure gossamer beauties can be observed in Ballona Wetlands, El Segundo, Dockweiler, Torrance Beach, Pt Vicente, Redondo Beach and Malaga Cove.(https://www.esbcoalition.org/)
This article (https://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/el-segundo-blue-butterfly-endangered/) cites specific observations of the El Segundo Blue butterfly in the PVIC garden and gives credit to Megan.
As for the female butterflies, you might strain your eyes trying to figure out what it is unless someone like Megan Wolff, the Land Conservancy’s volunteer coordinator as well as the garden manager for California Native Plant Society, South Coast Chapter, is around to point one out to you. That’s what happened when I saw my first El Segundo Blue Butterfly on Tuesday afternoon, shortly before the tour began.
The small garden sits between two spots on the nature preserve where populations of the butterfly already existed. “By adding in the host plant, Sea Cliff Buckwheat, we were able to populate the garden with El Segundo Blue Butterflies,” says Wolff. Not only has this project helped bolster the population on the preserve, but it demonstrates ideas that locals can apply at home. “It shows that people can do that in their home gardens as well and help with this effort as part of little patch habitats along the coast line,” she explains. “That’s very much part of this effort, as well as different efforts along the Preserve that the Conservancy is doing.”
If you want a chance to see an El Segundo Blue Butterfly, July is a good time. The butterflies, whose lives only last about a week, typically begin their flight season in late May and that lasts until around early-to-mid August. But, there’s another reason why you need to look closely for them: El Segundo Blue butterflies do a pretty good job of blending into their surroundings. Only the top portion of the male butterflies’ wings are blue. When they land on a buckwheat flower and fold their wings up to reveal a black and white print, they’re nearly camouflaged.
Another article in the Palos Verdes Pulse (https://www.palosverdespulse.com/blog/2021/7/30/the-el-segundo-blue-butterfly-a-fight-for-survival-by-steve-tabor) notes Point Vicente also:
To assist in the efforts to restore the ESB population, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy (Conservancy) has undertaken habitat restoration throughout multiple reserves on the Palos Verdes Peninsula including Alta Vicente, Abalone Cove Reserve and Vicente Bluffs Reserve near the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. Planting buckwheat in selected areas of these locations, the Conservancy provides the specific environment needed by the ESB to maintain its life cycle and continue to increase in population.
The El Segundo blue is federally listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Recovery Plan (ESA): “Recovery Plan for the El Segundo blue butterfly” September 28, 1998 Critical Habitat (ESA): Proposed, 2/8/77. (Federal Register 42:7972-7976).
See also the Xerces society. (http://www.xerces.org/endangered-species/species-profiles/el-segundo-blue)
Xerces Red List Status: Critically Imperiled
USA – Endangered Species Act: Endangered