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Protecting L.A.'s wildlife and open space

Protecting L.A.'s wildlife and open space
A lizard chills at Descanso Gardens. (Descanso Gardens)

Habitat is a natural byproduct of a botanical garden, but for the caretakers of beloved Descanso Gardens, it’s come to represent something far greater than the sprawling Los Angeles County park’s 160 acres.

“We’re connected to the greater story of wildlife in Los Angeles,” said Director of Education Emi Yoshimura. Descanso isn’t a stand-alone garden, she said, but a vital link that helps wildlife navigate the region’s shrinking wild spaces.

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That growing awareness is behind Descanso’s new exhibit, “Growing Habitat,” at the Sturt Haaga Gallery through Aug. 19.

There, visitors can walk a 16-by-16-foot floor map that graphically illustrates the importance of the remaining islands of green in the Southland and the ever-narrowing migratory corridors that wildlife must traverse to survive.

The exhibit includes wildlife taxidermy — such as a black bear and bobcat — borrowed from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and vivid trail-camera photos taken by noted photographers Denis Callet and Johanna Turner — like a cougar casually rubbing its neck on a log and a fox trotting up a hillside trail, oblivious to the sea of city lights below.

Children can crawl through a storm water pipe the way animals do to find passage from one habitat to another, and use nature journals to note the critters they spot at the gardens and their neighborhoods.

Visitors leave with a packet of native California poppy seeds and tips from the Arroyo and Foothills Conservancy about how to build a habitat that’s healthy for everyone.

“We want people to see that nature is all around us, even in an area that feels urban,” Yoshimura said, “and it’s to all our benefit to keep that habitat healthy.”

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Where: Descanso Gardens’ Sturt Haaga Gallery, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, through Aug. 19

Cost: Free with $9 admission to the gardens ($6 seniors/students with ID, $4 children 5-12. Children younger than 5 free.)

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