Twenty Questions

flower with butterfly
(Hymenoxys hoopesii) and butterfly Fritillary on Steens Mountain

What is it?

A botanist looking at the flower might say Helenium hoopesii, Dugalia hoopesii or Hymenoxys hoopesii depending on the age of the book they had been reading (name changes)… while an entomologist looking at the butterfly might hedge and say Fritillary, Speyeria ssp. but both might consider animal and vegetable as important.

The plant needs a pollinator and the pollinator needs food so they are mutually beneficial. Knowing one my help name the other.

No doubt the entomologist would have additional questions to ask if the species or subspecies of the Fritillary was of concern: Where did you take the picture?; What was the elevation?; Do you have a picture of the bottom side of the wing? What was the date? How large is the butterfly?… all important questions because pinning down the species and subspecies is difficult at best. One might even have to perform a dissection to get the exact answer.

So, if you would like to take a shot at naming the butterfly here are some of the answers. The photo was taken on Steens Mountain, Harney County, Oregon, near the summit at 9,000 feet, 4 August 2013… and, no, I don’t have a photo of the underside of the wing.

Will twenty questions be enough? Probably. If you ask the right questions you could uniquely identify 1,048,576 different species. So ask away…


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