Richard D. L. Fulton
(10/9) The presence of White Turtlehead, a plant
necessary for the survival of the state butterfly, the Baltimore Checkerspot,
has been identified at Rainbow Lake.
The Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton) is
listed as a "watched species" on the state rare, threatened and endangered
species list and described as uncommon to rare. In this region, the Checkerspot
relies solely upon the presence of the White Turtlehead in order for the female
to lay eggs, according to a spokesperson with the Baltimore Checkerspot
The plants (Chleone glabra) were found and reported to
The Dispatch by a town resident. The news editor and the reporting party
confirmed their presence on Sept. 28, and The Dispatch subsequently verified
the identity of the flowering plant with the BCRP.
The White Turtlehead thrives only in certain
environments, particularly in a "fen," lowland covered wholly or partly with
water and with peaty, alkaline soil. The flowers have also been found on wooded
hillsides. Development, especially along the Eastern seaboard, has been blamed
for much of the species' decline.
The plants discovered near Rainbow Lake were growing in
thickets along a small creek adjacent to a logging road leading to a denuded
(from logging) clearing overlooking the lake.
It's not known how much of the White Turtlehead growth
may have been destroyed in establishing the logging road. Additionally, tracks
indicative of all-terrain vehicles were present in the immediate area.
No effort appears to have been made to protect the
plants from ATVs, damage by hunters, deer (who are fond of White Turtlehead) or
on-going logging activities, but the BCPR said the scarce butterflies need a
lot of them to maintain a local Checkerspot population.
On Sept. 5, the town board of commissioners took no
action on a proposed resolution by Commissioner William B. O'Neil Jr. that
would have implemented a hunting moratorium on town lands to allow time to
develop a wildlife management plan.
Part of that plan would likely have addressed the
protection of rare, threatened and endangered species on town lands.
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