Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Jim Bissell, the "Un-developer"

One of the finest botanist in the state of Ohio is also Mother Nature's best friend.  Jim Bissell has been quietly going about the work of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History- for as long as anyone can remember.  He was recently described to me as the world's greatest  "un-developer."   

Jim has gone about Ohio, finding the best of natural areas and preserving them for nature and scientific study.  Countless acres that might have become strip-malls and housing tracks are now permanently preserved reservoirs of plants and animals.  And let's face it, these critters need all the help they can get.

Jim Bissell, C.M.N.H.'s  Un-developer
 On a recent Ohio Division of Wildlife Diversity Partners retreat, Jim led a field trip to the nearby Geneva Swamp Preserve.  He told us of the importance of the Flat-topped White Aster, Doellingeria umbellata  and its special relationship with a rare butterfly.  Geneva Swamp is one of the few places left in Ohio that has this aster, and one of the last places this butterfly was seen.

 The caterpillar of the Harris's Checkerspot (I photographed this in Michigan.) The Harris's caterpillar only uses the Flat-topped White Aster as a host plant. This is a plant we need to be searching for, concentrating on wet meadows.

Harris's Checkerspot,  Chelosyne harrisii 
 Harris's Checkerspot has only been found in onesy-twosies in Ohio for the last 10 years.  We are very concerned that this butterfly may no long be present- we know it has not been found in any numbers.  And while it is not much larger than a pearl crescent, the under-wing pattern is uniquely different.

Harris's Checkerspot, (Michigan)
The beautiful Harris's Checkerspot was only known from the northernmost counties in Ohio.  Now it is rarely seen and we should concentrate more effort on finding any remaining pockets of its populations.

And if you like bio-diversity in Ohio, please support it- by purchasing your Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp. Jim Bissell and I will thank you!

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