Growing Habitat: Descanso Gardens Explores the Wild World Outside Your Door

Published : Monday, May 7, 2018 | 8:19 PM

From the mountains to the flatlands, Southern California teems with wildlife. And as urban development shrinks native habitat, human-wildlife interactions are becoming more frequent. Growing Habitat: LA’s Wildlife and Descanso, an exhibition opening on May 21, 2018 at the Descanso Garden’s Sturt Haaga Gallery, will explore the diverse wildlife that co-exists with humans in the San Rafael Hills, the Verdugo Mountains and in greater Los Angeles. The exhibition also looks at the role Descanso Gardens plays as wildlife habitat.

Growing Habitat will preview to members May 18-20, 2018. A free Opening Reception, which is open to the public, will take place on May 20 from 4-6pm with a no-host bar and music. Gardens admission is free on May 20, starting at 3:30.

Descanso Gardens is a habitat for many living things: from heritage oaks, to native gray squirrels, to the vast network of mycorrhizal fungi in the soil underfoot. Descanso’s location, so close to an urban center, yet nestled in the foothills and connected to more “wild” areas, creates a prime opportunity to explore how humans and nature interact.

“Growing Habitat: LA’s Wildlife and Descanso examines the idea that a healthy habitat is more than just a space with food, shelter and water,” said Emi Yoshimura, Descanso Director of Education and curator of the exhibition. “A vibrant and resilient habitat is full of movement and connection and wildlife – both seen and unseen. The exhibit builds on people’s interest in the animals and the importance of all the things living here together. It’s a fuller picture of everything that makes up a healthy ecosystem.”

The exhibition is presented in partnership with The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy (AFC) which works to preserve land and restores habitat in and around the San Gabriel and Crescenta Valleys. They are featured in the Habitat Heroes section of the gallery, which looks at local institutions, nonprofits, and scientists who are conducting research about and advocating for the native plants and animals of the Los Angeles region.

“Over the last century, development has squeezed wildlife in the Los Angeles area into smaller and more disconnected open spaces.,” said Barbara Goto, AFC director of operations. “It is not yet too late to take the important steps that are necessary to not just stop but reverse this erosion of open land that is essential for a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.”

“This exhibit shines a bright light on the threats to wildlife in Southern California and also shows how those threats can be mitigated (or reduced). Descanso Gardens has done a great public service by creating this exhibit and opening it to the public,” she said.

In the interactive exhibit, visitors can feel what it’s like to live as a mountain lion as it navigates through the landscape. They can explore the woodland through wildlife photography, and a variety of tactile displays. Guests of all ages will see how we fit into our environment with a giant floor map, nature journals and interactive areas where you can touch natural items. Growing Habitat creates a prime opportunity to explore how humans and nature interact, coexist and impact each other in the universal search for a place to call home.

About Descanso Gardens

Founded as a public garden in 1953, Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge. Descanso Gardens is open daily (closed Christmas) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults; $6 for seniors and students with a school I.D.; $4 for children 5 to 12, and free for ages 4 and younger. Descanso Gardens is a member-supported garden accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Join Descanso Gardens and enjoy free admission and early entry year-round. Information: (818) 949-4200 or

About The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy

The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy (AFC) preserves land and restores habitat in and around the San Gabriel and Crescenta Valleys, thereby protecting natural areas for birds and wildlife and providing access and educational experiences for the community. AFC works with urgency to save these precious places before they are gone.







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