Baltimore Checkerspot in Jamestown

Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center in New York

The timing was perfect. There were several Baltimore checkerspot butterflies here and there in this wetland, part of the Jamestown (NY) Audubon Center’s extensive reserve. All looked fresh and just so pretty to look at. I really wanted image of Baltimores, and here was my opportunity.

So I stepped (Shhh!) off trail to shoot that one, w/o good result. This other one, flew before I could set up, Oh that’s a nice one, vamoose!, and that is how it went. To do what we do, you cannot give up, and I kept at it.

Checkerspots are limited here in the northeast, and we are Blessed to have these beauts. Their hostplants are Turtlehead, a native wetland wild flowering plant.

The thing about Baltimores is that when you find them, they bedazzle you, and you have to remember why you came there in the first place, to capture the handsome features of these eye-candy lookers.


New York Ironweed

New York Ironweed photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Hiking the trails as we do in the northeastern United States, our eyes constantly search for butterflies. We may all react as I do when approaching this wildflowering plant. I have come to generally disregard Vernonia noveboracensis. Why? Aren’t its blooms gorgeous? Yes, they are striking. Isn’t New York Ironweed one of the last of the late flowering wildflowers, joined by asters and goldenrods? Yes, again.

With dozens and dozens of flowers clustered on these erect stems, they receive only infrequent visits from butterflies. A puzzlement. Open from August to as late as October, they are not the first stop destination for our winged beauties. O. E. Jennings (1953) may offer us a clue, Grazing farm animals, even sheep, avoid this plant, probably because of its bitter foliage. This observation was made for the closely related Tall Ironweed, but perhaps it describes New York Ironweed also. Then who does nectar regularly at these striking blooms?

This year’s woefully limited Monarch population certainly did not consume much of their nectar secretion. Does that influence next year’s New York Ironweed presence?

A pretty plant, with a mysteriously low profile.