Colorado butterfly plant (Oenothera coloradensis (Rydb.) W.L. Wagner & Hoch ssp. coloradensis [syn. Gaura neomexicana Woot. ssp. coloradensis (Rydb.) Raven & Gregory]) in the Onagraceae; Primrose family) is a Threatened plant whose population declined in a protected area in southeastern Wyoming in 2007–2008, setting record low numbers in 23 years of the annual population census. This trend was accompanied by pervasive flea beetle herbivory (Altica spp.) in 2007. The most frequent flea beetle species collected in 2008–2009 was Altica foliaceae LeConte, a native species. Altica foliaceae favors members of Onagraceae, and A. foliaceae adults were collected on browsed Oenothera plants. The Oenothera population returned to pre-infestation numbers in 2009–2010, evidence that it survived by vegetative plants and seed bank. Results point to the importance of repeated long-term monitoring, without which this event could have been interpreted as a disaster or have gone unnoticed. It also documents an event that can inform population viability analysis.
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Vol. 31 • No. 3