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Volunteer Podcast: Episode 1 - Schaus Project

Biscayne National Park

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Good afternoon, everybody, my name is Craig Perry. And I‘m here working in Biscayne National Park on Adams Key. I work for the South Florida Caribbean Network of the Biscayne National Park on the Schaus Swallowtail Restoration Habitat Project. This area is one of our main restoration sites on Adams Key. It was previously full of invasives and that is why it was selected so we come in and we remove invasives. And we’re planting native plants, specifically, plants which are host plants for endangered Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly. What we have here is a plant that we planted, this is a torchwood plant, it’s the main host plant for the Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly. This is what the butterfly feeds on in the the larval stage when it emerges from the chrysalis as a caterpillar, particularly the flush new growth at the top of the plant. So it is a slow growing plant, and until it reaches maturity we have to do our part at these restoration sites to make sure that it is not out competed by weeds. Fast growing weeds will grow and out-shade and out compete these plants and choke them out and kill it if we don’t come and weed it like this is a garden. So our main responsibilities here is making sure that these plants grow up to be mature trees. And what we are doing here is removing invasive trees from the hardwood hammock and creating restoration sites with native plants, which also happen to be host plants for the Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly. They are larval host plants so the Schaus consume them in there larval form, their caterpillar form when they emerge from the chrysalis. So we come out here we maintain our restoration sites and we have future plans to plant more torchwood. Last year we planted 2700 plants. We are going to plant 2500 plants next year. So, to do so, we have to collect seeds from native populations of torchwood and rear them in a nursery. And lately we have been having trouble finding seeds and producing them in them in the nursery. So what we have been doing is attempting to clone torchwood of existing populations, through air layering and cuttings. So what we’re doing today we are cutting trees, girdling them and wrapping them in spavin moss, peeling them down to the Cambrian layer. And then we come back 2 or 3 months later and these will produce roots in the tree and we will sever that limb and then we can put that limb within a pot or within the ground directly. So it is an important project because the Schaus is a critically endangered butterfly species and just for the sake of preserving biodiversity and species richness within the hardwood hammock, it’s important that we protect the butterfly species. I’m going to make a few recommendations on what the public can do and what you can do at home to help save imperiled butterfly in South Florida. There are a number of things you can do. Mainly cut back on usage of pesticides and fertilizers. But also by planting native host plants. By doing your homework and researching and finding out what plants you can put in your yard that will benefit these butterfly. Particularly, for our butterfly species, the Schaus Butterfly. You could plant torchwood or wild lime in your yard. And they are not very glamorous as designer plants, but they do a lot to attract wildlife and feed butterfly species and caterpillars. So, that would be my recommendations, to remove invasive plants from your yard and cut back on fertilizers and pesticides and plant native host plants for imperiled butterfly species at home in your yard and create a micro habitat for them.

Description

A Volunteer podcast on a Schaus Swallowtail Restoration Habitat Project that took place at Adams Key in the summer of 2013.