Cheryl Harner's Flora and Butterfly Blog
Weedpicker's Journal: Discover the native plants of Ohio and the butterflies that utilize them.
Flat-topped Aster October 02, 2008

Sorting out fall asters does take a bit of study and patience, but they are well worth the effort. Beautiful fall color is only a small part of their story; leaf shape and over-all shape of the plant can also be critical factors.

One of the more easily recognizable forms is the flat-topped aster. Whether it is called Flat-topped White Aster or just Flat-topped Aster, Doellingeria umbellata or Aster umbellata, this important plant can be found at Kitty Todd. Although a deceptively plain looking flower of moist thickets and borders of swamps, this aster has a surprisingly important role in biodiversity. It is the host plant of the uncommon Harris' Checkerspot butterfly, which is rapidly disappearing from Ohio. I was once fortunate enough to join some of the good folks from Cleveland Museum of Natural History on a quest for Harris' Checkerspot caterpillars in the Grand Terrace area. I am sad to report, we were unable to find any that day.

These striking orange and black butterflies are on the decline, probably due to loss of wetland habitat. Weak fliers, like Harris' Checkerspots, have a difficult time re-establishing themselves when habit is destroyed and are in need of help. A Cleveland Heights high school student working with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History has developed a project to get these little guys listed as an endangered species by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. Let's see what we can do to support Emily Weatherhead and her efforts to Do Something!

2008-10-03 03:03:18 GMT
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