Something amazing is happening in Rotonda West. A former golf course is being changed into Broadmoor Park. One of the simple but profound changes that is occurring to transform this formerly bleak mowed landscape into a natural wonderland is the cessation of too frequent mowing and herbicide spraying of vegetation along the edges of the ponds. This allows for the growth of a diverse array of plants that support animal life of an amazing variety, both in the water and on land. The photo shows the regrowth of herbaceous plants along the northern edge of Lake Farrell.
I recently accompanied a group of Rotonda West residents on a nature walk led by Dave and Nancy Clayton to observe the gradual changes that will eventually transform this former golf course. One tiny weedy area along the banks of Lake Farrell illustrates the principle.
I quickly observed a swarm of four species of beautiful and beneficial insects in just one small area- a blue ceraunus butterfly, a white peacock butterfly, a female marl pennant dragonfly, and a male scarlet skimmer dragonfly. The tiny butterfly is an electrifying blue color on the inside of the wings but well camouflaged with a distinct eye spot on the outside. The eye spot is well designed to scare away potential predators from this otherwise defenseless insect. The white peacock feeds on a wetland plant (water hyssop) as a caterpillar and flower nectar as an adult. The carnivorous female marl pennant, as is the case for many female dragonflies, is camouflaged. The carnivorous male scarlet skimmer is bright red whereas the female is a dull color. This is likely due to the “gaudy male” phenomenon whereby the female chooses a mate based on brilliance of color. These and other dragonflies I observed provide a natural control on mosquitoes.
Isn’t it amazing how such a small thing- cessation of mowing along the edge of a pond – can have such beneficial effects on wildlife? How wonderful it would be if more communities with ponds would follow the lead of Rotonda West and experiment with the benefits of allowing natural vegetation to regrow in and along the edges of ponds.