A dozen volunteers from HandsOn Greater Richmond did something Saturday that might help bring more butterflies to the James River Park — they planted wildflowers in two meadows at Reedy Creek near the visitor center and along Riverside Drive.
“Meadows are the most rare natural areas in urban settings,” said park manager and naturalist Ralph White. “We have tall trees — some even quite old — we have shrubs, and grassland and brooks and ponds and rivers. But tall grasses and wild flowers are often associated with vacant building lots, abandoned home sites and backyards.”
Park trails manager Nathan Burrell worked with the volunteers, who also spent plenty of time doing the thankless and never-ending task of cutting invasive English ivy. But the romantic allure to the morning’s work was the wildflowers. The spaces had already been mowed and tilled, leaving volunteers with the fun tasks of spreading the seeds and hay over top. The meadows will help encourage more diversity of species at the river.
“There are landscape ordinances that govern the height of mowed vegetation so that undesirable plants and animals will not prosper near people’s houses,” he continued. “The trouble is, these pieces of fallow land and scruffy vegetation house the bulk of birds, butterflies and beetles that are the most easily viewed parts of nature and which comprise the base of the food chain. Eliminate this environmental niche and you reduce the species variety in the city by three-quarters or more.”
- Egg masses of preying mantises (they look like cylinders of styrofoam)
- Spittle bugs (look like wads of spit)
- On yellow flowers, look for yellow crab spiders.
- Butterflies: In the mid-summer, various types will be flying around. Viceroy, Red Admirals, little Blues, and especially the big Tiger Swallowtails.
- Various fireflies in June and July.
- Dragon flies patrol the area for mosquitoes.
- In the late Fall and winter, there lots of seed-eating sparrows… and nearby, attentive hawks.