Download our app in the AppStore now!

Download our app in the Play Store now!

View the Mobile Web Version of our app here!

You're seeing this message because you're using an older version of Internet Explorer that is unsupported on our website. Please use these links to upgrade to a modern web browser that fully supports our website and protects your computer from security risks.

Hide this message

FSU Tag Line


Bookmark and Share

FSU Biology Students Visit Savage River State Forest to Protect Endangered Butterfly

FSU Biology Students Visit Savage River State Forest to Protect Endangered Butterfly
Sabrina Wasfi plucks invasive garlic mustard plants from the ground in the Bear Pen Wildlands in the Savage River State Forest, joined by Megan Lineweaver, left, and Renee Anderson. This project of the Plant Taxonomy class at FSU is designed to help save the endangered West Virginia White Butterfly.

An endangered butterfly’s future generations will be spreading their wings with a greater chance of survival thanks, in part, to the work of Frostburg State University biology students.

Every spring, the BIOL 314 Plant Taxonomy class travels to Savage River State Forest’s Bear Pen Wildlands to help out the endangered West Virginia White Butterfly.

It turns out the butterfly’s sense of smell is thrown off because of an exotic invasive plant commonly known as garlic mustard. The butterfly thinks it’s honing in on another mustard, the common Toothwort, and instead could lay its eggs on the wrong plant.

“When it lays its eggs on the garlic mustard instead, the eggs don’t hatch. It’s fatal to them,” said Dr. Sunshine Brosi, associate professor of biology. “When there’s garlic mustard in an area where there’s this butterfly – the West Virginia White – it will kill off the butterfly.”

The trip helps fulfill a laboratory requirement for the class while providing volunteer service for the community. Volunteers from the Western Maryland Chapter of the Maryland Native Plant Society and Savage River Watershed Association sponsor the invasive plant removal events.

In addition to the mustard, the volunteers and students were tasked with pulling the Japanese spirea from its roots. The group removed about 30 pounds of small garlic mustard plants, which is a fraction of what used to be removed in the early years of the project. Organizers consider their efforts a success.

Watch a video about this project here.

The collaborative learning environment in one of Maryland’s most protected forests is an extra incentive for the students.

Wildlife and Fisheries student Dylan Finney smiled, looking around as he meandered around streams and creeks to be on the hunt for exotic plants. Any day spent outdoors is a good day for the Hancock resident.

“How many classes can you say, ‘Hey, for lab we get to go out and actually do something worthwhile,’” Finney said. “There are not many classes you can do that. I like nature all around, and it’s good to have.”

Before their hike through the forest, the Plant Taxonomy students memorized plant species thanks to the Herbarium housed in the Compton Science Center and the FSU Online Ethnobotanical Herbarium Collection, which is supported by the FSU Foundation.

Those resources came in handy as Brosi quizzed students about random plants on the forest floor before pulling garlic mustard.

The variety of ways to learn about plants and their significance is why Frederick resident Karen Johnson is an ethnobotany major.

“Our degree program is really unique. It encompasses a lot. It’s a very holistic degree,” said Johnson, a Frederick High School graduate. “You look at plants from many aspects, from farming and pharmaceuticals. So I think there’s pretty much a track for everybody who wants to do something with plants.”

The laboratory visits like the one at Bear Pen will help wildlife biology student Ben Roebuck, who aspires to be a field technician.

“For me personally, this is the type of work I’m looking to do once I graduate. I like to do technician work similar to this,” said the Winchester, Va., resident. “I think it’s a good area to get experience.”

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit or Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.


For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589