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Karner Blue Butterfly


Dr. Helen J. Michaels

Bowling Green State University


Karner blue butterfly research/management work:

Studies of the host plant, Lupinus perennis since 1994.


Work on the lupines has been directed towards:

understanding the factors that influence lupine reproduction (plant-pollinator interactions, seedling establishment)

understanding the factors that influence population viability (genetic variation and inbreeding depression)

lupine restoration.


Recent shift to more directly examine how spatial and temporal variation in environmental factors influence the Karner-Lupine interaction. In 2005, together with BGSU collaborators Karen Root & Enrique Gomezdelcampo, we began a study comparing regional differences in climatic factors in various locations (two where Karners became extirpated and three where Karners have retained viable populations) to seek insight into the role of environmental variation in determining Karner demographics. As a part of this work we are also developing remote sensing methods for understanding temporal and spatial variation in Lupine tissue quality.



Lupinus perennis populations, regardless of size, are significantly impacted by inbreeding depression.


Smaller populations show reduced allelic diversity.


Seedling fitness is affected by some population-source specific environmental factors (e.g soil pH).  


Seedling fitness declines with increased levels of selfing.


Inbreeding depression can be delayed when seeds are produced by plants receiving supplemental resources, leading to reduced seedling survivorship when these seeds are subsequently grown.


Natural levels of seedling recruitment increase with management activities, but seedling mortality is greater at higher light levels.


Lupine population size does not affect visitation by pollinator communities or pollination success if populations are greater than a few hundred plants. In contrast, all measures of pollination success increased significantly with density, suggesting that both size and density of host plant populations should be considered in design of Karner restoration and reintroduction programs.


Work Area:

Ohio - Oak openings

Southeast Michigan


My collaborators and I have also been collecting relevant climatic data from other areas (SW Michigan, NY, NH) where Karners currently or once occurred.


Contact Information:

Bowling Green State University

Dept. of Biological Sciences






Bernhardt, C, , R.J. Mitchell and H.J. Michaels. "Effects of population size and density on pollinator visitation, pollinator behavior, and pollen tube abundance in Lupinus perennis."  International Journal of Plant Sciences (in press).


Michaels, H.J., X.J. Shi and R.J. Mitchell. (2008). Effects of population size on performance and inbreeding depression in Lupinus perennis. Oecologia 154(4):651-61 


Shi, X.J.,  H.J.  Michaels, and R.J. Mitchell. (2005).Effects of self-pollination and maternal resources on reproduction and offspring performance in the wild lupine, Lupinus Perennis (Fabaceae) . Sexual Plant Reproduction 18:55-64. DOI 10.1007/s00497-005-0250-3


Manuscripts in preparation:

Michaels, H. J. and C.A. Cartwright.  Effects of population size and environmental factors on reproductive success of Lupinus perennis. ( in revision)


Tracey, C., Bouzat, J. L., and Michaels. H.J. Changes in reaction norm and levels of genetic variation for phenotypic plasticity in the threatened plant, Lupinus perennis.  (Journal of Evolutionary Biology, submitted).


Michaels, H. J. and X. J. Shi, RJ Mitchell and K Holsinger. Drift and genetic erosion in Lupinus perennis revealed by microsatellite loci isolated with Walk The Flank PCR. (in prep. for Molecular Ecology).


Unpublished Theses and Dissertations:

St. Mary, Mark. 2007. A Study of the Effectiveness of Transplanting Vs. Seeding of Lupinus perennis in an Oak Savanna Regeneration Site.  M.S. Thesis, Bowling Green State University. 




Last updated: July 19, 2016