The Mission Blue butterfly lays eggs only on lupines. Lupines are the butterfly’s ‘host’ plant – the plant that the caterpillars feed on with their chewing mouthparts. Lupine seeds come in a little pod or ‘fruit’ technically called a legume. They all look something like this:

The larvae feed on lupine leaves and stems, and blend in well with the hairy leaves. Four lupine species have been observed with Mission Blue eggs. Three are perennial lupines, and one is an annual lupine. The silver lupine Lupinus albifrons is short and low in stature, with purple flowers. It can get a woody base and branches. It has a taller and bushier look-a-like cousin down in the sand dunes called Lupinus chamissonis. Lupinus albifrons though is found in the rocky thin upland grassland soils, occasionally forming large patches in scrapes, road cuts, and eroding cliffs. Heres it is:

Another lupine that Mission Blues favor for egg laying is the summer lupine, Lupinus formosus. This lupine is not as common as silver lupine, and its leaves are green. And yes it is hairy. It is a bit more rhizomatousy sprawly in habit, and does not develop the basal woodiness.

The third perennial lupine sometimes utilized by Mission Blue butterflies is the varied lupine, Lupinus variicolor. It is called varied because the flowers change colors from whitish to pinkish to purplish. It has distinctive reddish stems:

Once in a while you find a Mission Blue butterfly egg on an annual lupine. Survival wise this is not so good for the butterfly. If you are a young larva that goes to sleep at the base of an annual lupine, the lupine will likely not be there when you wake up hungry the year after. Still…. This is an annual lupine called sky lupine Lupinus nanus:

There are places on San Bruno Mountain where the different species of lupine grow together. This is up near the summit by Radio Ridge: