Butterfly Valley

I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to have the wrong idea aboutButterfly Valley, in the Sierra 80 miles north of Truckee. Spyingit on a map, I imagined meadows full of pretty winged lepidoptera.But once I got there, I learned that these remote 500 acres ofPlumas National Forest are actually famous for insect-eatingplants. The California pitcher plant, largest of the five killerplant species found here, will even consume butterflies, if it getsthe chance.

This month the valley bursts with lupines, lilies, and otherwildflowers. Botanist Jim Battagin, author of The Flora ofButterfly Valley Botanical Area, says the region has an unusual mixof plants. “We’re at a meeting here of different habitats.”

The biggest collection of California pitcher plants, also calledcobra lilies, can be seen in the Darlingtonia Bog, 6 miles west ofState 70/89. This month you might spot its unusual green-and-maroonflower as well. Roads are not well marked. Visitors should check infirst at Quincy’s Mt. Hough Ranger Station.

Given that the valley is anything but a lepidopteran heaven, howdid it get its name? From the valley’s two-winged shape. That’ssomething for the pitcher plants to chuckle about on nights aroundthe butterfly roast. Butterfly Valley Botanical Area, Mt. HoughRanger District (39696 State 70, Quincy; www.r5.fs.fed.us/plumasor 530/283-0555)

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