Mar 21, 2007

Seeing Checkerspots

If you've read my work over at Yelp, you know I'm a fan of Edgewood Park & Natural Preserve. And today there's great news for the park and its friends: as reported by the San Mateo Daily Journal, "The checkerspot butterfly is flying back from the brink of extinction and making its home once again in Edgewood Park — a decade after it disappeared from the San Mateo County natural preserve."

Part of the reason I'm so excited over something so small is that the return of this native species is due pretty much entirely to the efforts of volunteers, who spent years removing invasive ryegrass and other weeds and replacing them with native plants the checkerspot needs for food. That people can — and would — change the world without the motivation of money gives me hope.

Again — am I beating this drum too much? — here is an illustration of the importance of native plants. In our case, the checkerspot mommies lay their eggs on California plantain, an unassuming little thing notable for two reasons: one, it is a primary food for checkerspot larvae; and two, it has adapted to the austere, even toxic, soil created by serpentine stone — with which Edgewood Park is rife. When the ryegrass moved in, it forced the plantain out… and the butterflies followed.

You'll find the long story of the checkerspot, and plant species that tolerate serpentine, elsewhere. But for now, take advantage of these beautiful days and go butterfly watching! I know just the place…

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