Mountain-Prairie Region
Close up of flower Colorado butterfly plant habitat


The Colorado butterfly plant has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since October 2000. 

Species Description: The Colorado butterfly plant (Gaura neomexicana ssp. coloradensis) is a member of the Evening primrose family.  Members of this family are distinguished by having flowers with four petals that are fused at the base into a slender tube situated above the seed-producing stem.  The Colorado butterfly plant is a perennial plant that typically lives from 2-6 years.  Typical plants are 1 ½ to 2 feet tall with leaves over 1 ½ inches long.

Habitat:  The Colorado butterfly plant occurs primarily in southeastern Wyoming, northcentral Colorado, and extreme western Nebraska.  The Colorado butterfly plant is typically found in wetlands habitats along the meandering stream channels on the high plains.  In undisturbed sites, it grows among native grasses. The Colorado butterfly plant prefers open habitat that is not substantially overgrown by other vegetation.

Threats:   As ecological succession continues and more vegetation begins to take over its habitat, the Colorado butterfly plant tends to die out.  Historically, flooding was probably the most important type of disturbance creating and maintaining open habitat.  Wildfire and grazing also were historically present and likely were important in creating and maintaining Colorado butterfly plant habitat.

Recent Actions: On June 20, 2011, we initiated 5-year status reviews under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), of 2 animal and 10 plant species. We are requesting any information that has become available since our original listing of each of these species. Based on review results, we will determine whether we should change the listing status of any of these species.


In May 2010 the Recovery Outline for the Colorado butterfly plant became available. This document lays out a preliminary course of action for the recovery of Colorado butterfly plant. It serves to guide recovery efforts and inform consultation and permitting activities until a comprehensive recovery plan for this species is approved.

On January 11, 2005, in accordance with a court-approved settlement agreement, the Service designated 3,538 acres of critical habitat along approximately 51 stream miles within Platte and Laramie counties, Wyoming for the Federally threatened Colorado butterfly plant.

On September 24, 2004, the Service released a draft analysis of the potential economic impacts of a proposal to designate critical habitat for the Colorado butterfly plant.

On October 18, 2000, the Service announced the Colorado butterfly plant, a rare short-lived perennial herb, will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

On March 24, 1998, the Service proposed that the Colorado butterfly plant be included as a threatened species on the Federal list of endangered and threatened species.

More information can be found on the Service's ECOS webpage



Last updated: June 21, 2011