Friday, April 2, 2010

Lost and Found at Fernwood

Recent travels took me to Fernwood State Forest, near Wintersville, right on the eastern edge of the state of Ohio. It has been the only known nesting sight of an Ohio raven, one of the largest and most wary members of the Corvid family of birds. Unfortunately, no ravens were found on the trip, but we still had some interesting sightings.

Four West Virginia White butterflies were spotted that day, but taking a photo of these ghostly little creatures is not so easy. Fast-fluttering and high-flying, it was a fortunate shot indeed that captured this specter's image. A bit smaller than the common Cabbage White butterfly, W.V.W.s lack the distictive black spots found on Cabbage White's wings.

West Virginia Whites, Pieris virginiensis are considered, rare to occasional and quite localized in Ohio. Don't even try for them in Toledo or parts west, you won't find them there! Some of our earliest fliers, W.V. Whites are mighty particular about their chow as well. Here is the host plant you'll be looking for:

Cut-leaved Toothwort, Cardamine concatenata (used to be called Dentaria lanciniata) is a member of the mustard family. Now I did not note any toothworts at this location, but I did see several of its close mustard family relatives.
WV Whites are interesting flutter-bys and one you should note. In fact, the Cleveland Museum of Nature's LEAP program has been charting their occurrence. The invasive alien, Garlic Mustard may be impacting these little beauties in a very bad way. Forest fragmentation and loss of habitat are just a couple more reasons they are in decline. So, if you find some West Virgina Whites fluttering through your neighborhood, you might do a good deed and report them to the authorities!


  1. Cathi Lehn just sent out an announcement of the new "West Virginia White" facebook group, where everyone can report there sightings of this species.

    On a completely other note, I'm shocked that I've never heard of "Fernwood State Forest". This one is completely new to me!


  2. I'll check out that group Tom.

    Fernwood is an old strip mine site, and mostly acres of non-native species eking out a living on acid run off and minimal soil. Most of it was impacted before Federal laws for restoration (like the Wilds)- in many ways, it is some pretty God-forsaken land. The WV White was a major surprise- left on an island of habitat.