Living in Nature

Walking up Enright near the Earth Center entrance, I came across several dark caterpillars crossing the sidewalk. In previous summers (although it seems like it might have been early instead of late summer) I remember seeing such caterpillars devouring much but not all of the leaves of the catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) tree at the Earth Center. So I looked up, and sure enough the tree’s leaves are more than half eaten, covered by fat caterpillars. A few days later, there are no leaves left on the tree. I know that native trees, more than non-natives or aliens, provide food for our local insects, which have co-evolved with local plants over millions of years. Most of these plants can survive the leaf damage, which tends not to be too extensive. Although this catalpa tree has seemingly lost all its leaves, It is late in the season and based on the same tree in past years, I’m expecting its rebirth in the spring. In the process, the insects are a great food source for the birds. So we try to always plant native trees and shrubs in our yard and woods, enjoying the fact we are nourishing the web of life here on the ridge.

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