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Explore The Wilder Side of FCHS

Ximena Angeles-Angeles --Eagle Staff Writer


The FCHS campus might appear to be just so many acres of concrete, asphalt, and brickwork. Still, there is a lot of wildlife around the FCHS campus, if we just slow down and look closer at what’s outside we can see different kinds of plants, insects, and animals too.

Bloodroot, a spring wildflower, can be found along the trail behind the track. (Courtesy Photo)

One good place to find animal wildlife is in the woods behind the track. Frances Lash, a biology professor at Ferrum College and former science teacher at FCHS, stated that she has seen white tailed deer, eastern turkey, and pileated woodpeckers in the woods behind the track. 


There's also a surprising amount of wildlife around the crape myrtle bushes beside the Law building, mainly when the bloom in the summer and fall. Lash explained,  “There you will find insects called pollinators. [The bushes] are surrounded by a lot of bumble bees, smaller native sweat bees, and syrphid flies.” Lash said that some common birds that she has seen around the campus courtyards are white tailed doves and cardinals. 


Lash says there's more than just the birds and bees when it comes to campus wildlife. “There are many spring wildflowers that will bloom in the upcoming months in the lawns around campus that I used to have my students study [like] stork's bill, dandelion, henbit, and more."


Lash isn't the only one with an eye on campus wildlife. Jackson Crawford, senior and wildlife enthusiast, said that he saw a monarch butterfly flying around campus one day last year - the first in a long time. “It's not very often you see monarchs anymore due to their rapid decline in number. Just this year their numbers were reported to have dropped around 60%, mostly due to habitat loss. The monarch I saw was most likely only seen due to the campus's close proximity to natural area reserves like Bald Knob and Grassy Hill," he explained.


Being neighbors with Bald Knob has its advantaged. In addition to being a beautiful mountain, Bald Knob is also a Natural Area Preserve, containing wildlife and rare plants. There is one plant in particular called Phemeranthus piedmontanus commonly known as the Piedmont Fameflower, found at only a handful of sites around the world, including Bald Knob.

The Eastern Box Turtle is a common turtle in areas around FCHS. (Courtesy Photo)

Many people might not notice the wildlife around them when they’re going from class to class, but it's not out of lack of interest. “Students are busy running from class to class and busy talking to their friends," Lash opined, but Crawford feels there's more to it. "Most of what is there to see is either centered up near the track or is so small that most people don't care to notice.”


While there's more to see than you might think, there's clearly not as much as there could be. Why don’t we see more wildlife around campus? "The answer to this lies in plain sight," Crawford replies. "The large expanses of asphalt and nonnative non-flowering turf grasses paired with the mostly nonnative and sometimes invasive tree and shrub species planted on campus do virtually nothing for native species of insects and birds.” 


So what can we do to help wildlife, on campus and at home? "Create native habitat! Plant native wildflowers, let gardens go wild, and create habitat in these gardens for a variety of animals," Lash listed. She also included throwing away trash so animals don't ingest harmful products and litter doesn't ruin the aesthetics around campus.


Lash also encourages adopting sustainable behaviors. "Mow less or turn your lawn into a wildflower meadow. Reduce pesticide usage.  Minimize fertilizers - those are bad for our aquatic ecosystems."


There is a beautiful world of wildlife all around campus that needs to be seen, talked about, and protected. Lash and Crawford agree, that begins with just taking the time to go outside and see what's out there. You might find an animal or plant that doesn't really come by often and is rare to see. As Lash puts it, “There is always something to see or learn about.”

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