Tom's Blog

Friday, August 29, 2014

Baltimore checkerspot butterflies and turtlehead plants

Baltimore checkerspot at Pleasant Valley Conservancy
Turtlehead (Chelone glabra) in the Valley Prairie
The primary larval host of the Baltimore checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton) is the White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), a species of marshes, sedge meadows, and wet prairies. Turtlehead is native to Pleasant Valley Conservancy. It seems to be favored by wetland burns and flourished extensively in the sedge meadows after our first wetland burn in 2005. It was shortly after this burn that butterfly aficionados reported the presence of Baltimore checkerspots along the lane separating the Crane Prairie from the wet sedge meadow.

Although Baltimore checkerspots are not common in Wisconsin, they were very prolific at Pleasant Valley Conservancy during the last two trips (2013, 2014) led by the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association. They were especially common this year in the Valley Prairie area.

In past years we had not seen turtlehead in the Valley Prairie, but because of the checkerspot findings we anticipated finding them. Also, both the Valley Prairie and the marsh near it had good burns this past spring. 

Indeed, Amanda and Susan have been successful in finding quite a few flowering stems of this attractive plant in both locations.

Note added: according to the Illinois flower web site, checkerspot larvae in their later instars may move to and feed on swamp lousewort, a species that is prolific in our wetland. This may help explain the extensive populations at Pleasant Valley Conservancy.


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