CPC Plant Profile: Colorado Butterfly Plant
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Plant Profile

Colorado Butterfly Plant (Oenothera coloradensis)

This herb grows from 50 to 80 cm tall, has lance-shaped leaves, and produces white flowers that turn pink or reddish with age (as seen here). Photo Credit: J. Locklear
  • Global Rank: N/A
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Onagraceae
  • State: CO, NE, WY
  • Nature Serve ID: 149254
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 05/28/1986

The meadows that hug stream banks on the plains of southeastern Wyoming and adjacent Colorado and Nebraska are lush compared to the shortgrass prairie of the surrounding uplands. These refreshing places are the last stand of the Colorado butterfly plant, a plant threatened with extinction due to the loss and alteration of this rare meadow habitat.

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  • 09/19/2020
  • Propagation Research

Propagated successfully from seed with and without 3 month cold/moist stratification pretreatment (Nebraska Statewide Arboretum).

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Occurs on a small number of sites globally, some threatened by mowing and spraying. Only a few protected sites. Population fluctuations inherent to biennial taxa.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Overgrazing by livestock. Mowing habitat for hay before seed is released. Herbicides. Competition from weeds. Loss of habitat to urban expansion. (USFWS 2000)

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Fertig (1998) estimated the entire population of this taxon to contain between 47,000 and 50,000 reproductive plants.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Propagated successfully from seed with and without 3 month cold/moist stratification pretreatment (Nebraska Statewide Arboretum).

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Periodic disturbance events are necessary to maintain suitable habitat, control competing vegetation, and open bare ground for seedling establishment. Historically, flooding was the most important type of disturbance. Moderate, rotational grazing and haying may be potential management tools to create open habitat (Fertig 2000b). Two occurrences on Warren Air Force Base near Cheyenne, WY are within a designated Research Natural Area and are protected from spraying, mowing and livestock grazing. All other occurrences are on private land or state lands managed primarily for agriculture (Fertig 2000b).

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Population monitoring. Establish additional populations within historic range.

Jim Locklear
  • 01/01/2010

Additional seed banking.


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Taxon Oenothera coloradensis
Authority (Rydb.) W.L. Wagner & Hoch
Family Onagraceae
CPC Number 1997
ITIS 835993
Common Names Colorado butterfly plant | Colorado butterfly-weed | New Mexico beeblossom | Colorado beeblossom
Associated Scientific Names Gaura neomexicana subsp. coloradensis | Gaura neomexicana
Distribution Limited to approximately 1700 acres of habitat centered in Laramie County, Wyoming, with scattered populations in western Kimball County, Nebraska and Weld County, Colorado. Historically, native popul
State Rank
State State Rank
Colorado S1
Nebraska S1
Wyoming S2

Subirrigated, alluvial soils on level or slightly sloping floodplains and drainage bottoms, and old, abandoned stream channels with a high water table. Colonies are often found in low depressions or along bends in wide, meandering stream channels. Most populations are found a short distance from the actual channel and may even occur at the base of low, alluvial ridges at the interface between riparian meadows and drier grasslands. Elevation 5000-6400 ft.

Ecological Relationships

Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Butterflies & Moths
Moths Suspected Pollinator Floral Link
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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