The Wetlands are Dry and All the Asters look alike

Last time I wrote a blog post monitoring was just beginning- the Lomatium bradshawii was just starting to flower and rain gear was as essential as data sheets. Now you’d be more likely to find a single butterfly egg than water in the wetlands. These seasonal wetlands rapidly dry out in late spring-early summer and have been bone dry for weeks. Most of the plant species here are going into a sort of summer hibernation until the fall rains come in September/October. There are just two more sensitive species to monitor- Pyrrocoma racemosa and Sericocarpus rigidis, both members of Asteraceae. While many species in Asteraceae are what people think of fondly when they think of flowers, this family is probably one of my least favorite plant families. (Obviously I love all plant families so this is just preference not dislike).

All my sites with Pyrrocoma racemosa also seem to have two other native asters that from afar look very similar. If you’ve ever tried to ID more than one plant you probably know how there can be much variation within a species even at the same location, which doesn’t help with separating species. Although now I feel that I have a pretty good eye for picking out Pyrrocoma racemosa from afar the first few hours of monitoring I had to touch almost every single plant. The texture of the leaves seemed to be the most consistent field characteristic- Microseris laciniata has smooth, thin leaves, Grindelia intergrifolia has thicker leaves that are very sticky to the touch, and Pyrrocoma racemosa has thick leaves that aren’t quite as smooth as the Microseris laciniata but much smoother than the Grindelia intergrifolia. Maybe they look obviously different to you in the following photos but they sure don’t when they’re mixed together in large fields.

Microseris laciniata, one of the many Asteraceae look-a-likes in the wetlands.

Grindelia integrifolia, another look-a-like aster.

Pyrrocoma racemosa, the threatened species I’m  counting.

With two months left in my internship I’ll being doing a mix of projects to fill my time- learning how to use GeoBOB, reflagging plots for next year, helping the other CLM intern attempt to control some of the invasive species that have flourished this season, a couple more butterfly surveys and hoping the fall weather comes soon.

On a more exciting botanical note the other plant family that seem to all be blooming as of late are the orchids!

Platanthera transversa royal rein orchid, found while helping CLM intern Emily Erickson in the forest for the day.

Goodyera oblongifolia western rattlesnake plantain, another common forest orchid.

Spiranthes romanzoffiana hooded ladies’-tresses- all over the wetlands!

Restoration in the City Limits


When I applied to the CLM internship I pictured myself out in a super remote area trying to adjust to long days of hiking and without much human interaction. Working in the West Eugene Wetlands with the BLM couldn’t be farther from that! The West Eugene Wetlands is a partnership between the BLM, state government, various non-profits, and the community of Eugene to restore and preserve wetland species of the Willamette Valley. Before white settlers came out west and decided to farm the land, the valley was full of small forbs, tufted grasses, and a smattering of oaks. So often conservation is done far from the public eye but here you can drive on main city roads and see endangered species out your car window! It’s interesting to think about how a 150,000 person city can coexist with the 300+ species found in the wetlands including many that are threatened or endangered. You might not be able to tell from my photos but we are never more than a 20 minute drive from downtown Eugene!

It’s my third week here in the wetlands and we’ve already finished monitoring for our first endangered species, Lomatium bradshawii (Bradshaw’s lomatium).  I worked with one of our main partners, the Institute for Applied Ecology, to do this monitoring at 5 sites around Eugene. Bradshaw’s lomatium is extremely delicate and one of the first plants to bloom in the wetlands along with common camas, western buttercup, and death camas.

An intern from the Institute for Applied Ecology and I count Bradshaw’s lomatiums in a square meter along our transect. We found anywhere from 0 to 140 individuals in each square meter!

Bradshaw’s lomatium with one flowering head.

Next up on our list of endangered species is the Fender’s blue butterfly(FBB). The weather has to cooperate just right for these little guys to emerge from diapause, fly around, and lay eggs for next year. It rained for my first two weeks, so on our first sunny day above 70 degrees we headed out hopeful with nets in hand. Earlier in the week my mentor and I attended a training for all the people who would be going out across the state of Oregon monitoring FBB. It was awesome to meet the people from all the different agencies (Army Corp of Engineers, Fish & Wildlife, Institute for Applied Ecology, & Washington State University) who would be doing similar work. We learned identifying characteristics, life history, and the proper way to swing your net.

Waiting for a butterfly sighting in a field of Plectritis congesta(common nectar source for FBB) and Lupinus sulphureus spp. kincaidii(FBB host plant).

During our first couple days walking butterfly transects we were able to net many butterflies, but so far all have been a common species that looks similar to the endangered FBB. This other species of blue butterfly is the silvery blue (SBB). Both butterflies host on the Kincaid’s lupin, occupying the same habitats. A trained eye can sometimes distinguish the two species during flight, but netting or using binoculars is required in the monitoring protocol to truly ID the two butterflies. As the weather continues to warm up we should be seeing more and more butterflies so I’m hoping next week we see our first FBB of the year!

The silvery blue butterfly here looks almost identical to the FBB. Very subtle color differences, a couple ventral wing spots, and slightly different life histories differentiate the two species.



West Eugene Wetland, BLM