Plant Violets So the Silverspot Won’t Be Blue

November 20, 2015 - November 21, 2015
Various sites in Clatsop County

Photo of early blue violets.
Help to invite the all-too-rare Oregon silverspot butterfly back to Clatsop County by joining a special project to plant violets on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20-21, at various sites on the Clatsop Plains between Gearhart and Warrenton.

This is the culmination of a 10-year project, led by the North Coast Land Conservancy (NCLC), to restore the butterfly’s habitat. The early blue violet (Viola adunca) plays an essential role in the silverspot’s life cycle. The females lay their eggs among the stems and debris of the violet (which dies back during the winter), which is the crucial food source for the larvae. Early blue violets aren’t rare—they occur widely around the West—but within the Oregon silverspot’s range they are associated with coastal grasslands, a diminishing habitat.

The historic range of Oregon silverspot extended along the Oregon and Washington coasts from Westport, Washington south to around Heceta Head in Oregon, and in a separate coastal area north of Crescent City in Del Norte County, California. At least 17 historic sites are known. The current known range is limited to five sites, including four in coastal Oregon in Lane and Tillamook counties, and one in Del Norte County, near Lake Earl.

These five areas are special conservation sites for maintaining the butterfly’s population level. There is also a sixth conservation area: the Clatsop Plains. The silverspot’s current status there is uncertain, which is where the present project comes in. Since 2006, when seed was gathered from native violets on the Clatsop Plains, generations of violets have been cultivated at native plant nurseries. More than 10,000 of those seedlings are now ready for planting.

If you wish to help increase the violet population here, which may help the butterfly to build its numbers, turn out Nov. 20-21 with boots, gloves, clothing appropriate for the weather at that time of year, and a garden trowel if you have one. All other tools, along with refreshments, will be provided. Contact NCLC Stewardship Director Melissa Reich at [email protected] for location, time, and other details and to let her know you are coming (and how many people you are bringing). If you can recruit others to join you, that will increase the fun factor while helping to assure this restoration effort’s success.