Starting along the paved path by the Education Building, there is a pollinator garden just before you reach the field.
Stop and look around at the amazing diversity of habitat here. Field and forest and the associated edge habitat; sky and soil; and even the short grass provide a variety of food and shelter to support a diversity of wildlife.
There is no better illustration of the need for habitat preservation than butterflies—or more specifically—caterpillars. Caterpillars are picky eaters, requiring a specific plant on which to feed before pupating and transforming into butterflies or moths. And of course, without caterpillars we would have NO butterflies.
For instance, the monarch caterpillar pictured above must have one of the milkweeds to survive, such as butterfly weed that grows here in the garden along the Paved Trail.
The caterpillar of the spectacularly beautiful zebra swallowtail depends on leaves of just one species, that of the pawpaw tree. A wonderful native tree with edible fruit, pawpaw trees are nonetheless not often found in cultivated gardens, making it all the more important to protect its natural habitat. Pawpaw trees grow off the Blue, Yellow and Red Trails at Ivy Creek.
Many of the brush-footed butterflies and the skippers depend on fields for the grasses their caterpillars eat.
Virginia's state insect, the eastern tiger swallowtail, must have access to tuliptrees and cherry found wild in our woodlands.
As our population grows, natural habitat is disappearing. If we hope to preserve our native wildlife, we must work to preserve their habitat.