SLIDESHOW: Stewart Wechsler is a botanist after butterflies
Botanist and Ecological Consultant Stewart Wechsler can be seen on certain days in Lincoln Park, running very quickly with a net in pursuit of an elusive prey. During June he's been seeking the Western Tiger Swallowtail which at this time of year "is our most abundant species. They lay their eggs on broadleaf deciduous trees and generally are in sunny edges and openings of the woods."
While some butterflies can live up to a year, with the well known Monarch species as an example, the Swallowtails live only approximately 8 days.
Once he spots them, a mad dash begins as they swoop and flutter, Wechsler running in the hope they will dip low enough for him to net them. His purpose is really just to educate. "I'm dedicated to the preservation and restoration of our local unique, native biodiversity," he said. "One of the main tools I use is sharing my excitement and knowledge. I want to educate people in the process. Maybe I can show them a butterfly and in turn they will understand the need for the plants in their community and then maybe get engaged and excited to be a part of the stewardship of this gem, Lincoln Park, which probably has the greatest diversity of remaining indigenous plants of any place in Seattle."
Wechsler explained that the place butterflies occupy in the ecosystem is somewhat under appreciated. "They are pollinators," he said, "and increasingly recently, with honeybee population crashing we need to look at all the insects that are pollinating flowers as more and more important."
He apprenticed as a boy with his brother Doug Wechsler who is an author, photographer and naturalist, beginning before the age of 5. He kept it up until his late teen years. While he took some time off for awhile he's been back at it now for some years. "It gives me partly a purpose and it's what I love. This is Eden. I want to protect and help the regrowth of the Eden that I grew up loving. The original community of plants and animals and fungi that God (though I'm agnostic) or nature created without human influence."
He's available for educational programs, nature walks, and field trips for schools, and public and private groups. He is also a consultant offering advice on the most site-appropriate native plants and how to enhance habitat for maximum diversity of plants and animals. You can reach him at 206- 932-7225
You can 'Friend" Wechsler on Facebook here.