Plants and Animals at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park
Ellanor C. Lawrence Park falls within the Piedmont geologic province, which stretches south-westward from New York City to Alabama. Upon arrival in this region nearly 300 years ago, European settlers cleared the forested land and converted it for agricultural use. Within the last 100 years much of this region has been abandoned as farmland, largely due to the decrease in soil quality from intensive farming practices. Where development has not moved in to replace farms, natural succession has led to reforestation.
Ellanor C. Lawrence Park is a prime example of this succession. Once a working farm, ECLP was a gift from David Lawrence in honor of his wife, Ellanor. Now totaling over 650 acres, the park encompasses several different stages of forest succession, offering a variety of different habitats for wildlife. These include open meadows, an eastern red cedar thicket, mixed deciduous-conifer forest, maturing hardwood forest, several stream valleys, and a pond. It is this diversity that provides for the 133 species of birds that have been documented in the park.
We've come up with a list of birds of interest. These 16 birds are indicator species - or the presence of each bird can tell us something about what is going on in the environment.
The Dogs of Fairfax County
Canidae, the dog family, is a group of small to medium sized
predators containing about 35 species worldwide. Dogs are extremely
adaptable, making their homes in almost every type of habitat on
every continent except Antarctica. The earliest dogs occur in the
fossil record about 40 million years ago. Dogs are mammalian
carnivores with 42 teeth, non-retractable claws, and four toe pads
on each foot. Although America’s largest dog, the gray wolf, is no
longer found in Virginia, Fairfax County is still the home to four
dog species: the domestic dog, coyote, red fox and gray fox.
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Flowering Plant Species
The flowering plant species list was compiled over several years from observations by park staff and local amateur botanists. It represents most of the non-woody and woody flowering plants found in the park. New species are added each year. You may encounter species not found on this list. Park staff would appreciate it if you would report all new sightings on the park message board or at Walney Visitor Center (phone 703-631-0013). Please include your name, an e-mail address or phone number, species name (botanic and common), location, reference volume used and date sighted in all reports.
This list of mammal species has been compiled by park staff through field observations, sightings and lists of animals found in the region that could occur here. Please report all new sightings on the park message board or at Walney Visitor Center (phone 703-631-0013). Please include your name, an e-mail address or phone number, species name, and location.
Wildlife in Ellanor C. Lawrence Park
This list of reptile and amphibian species has been compiled by park staff from field observations, sightings, and lists of animals found in the region that could occur here. Please report any new sightings or observations on the web page message board. Additional information is available at the Virginia Herpetological Society.
Ask A Naturalist
If you have a question, you can Ask A Naturalist!
The 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are there rattle snakes and water moccasins here?
No, the only venomous snake we have in Fairfax County is the northern copperhead. Snakes should never be handled. Many snakes try to mimic the pattern of copperheads for their own protection. Please stay on the trail and do not attempt to handle a snake.
2. Are there coyotes here?
Yes. Coyotes are becoming more and more common in Fairfax County and they have been seen here at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. They generally pose no threat to humans.
3. I just saw a fox in broad daylight and he didn't run. Does
that mean he has rabies?
No. Although fox and coyotes are chiefly nocturnal they are still seen during the day. Never approach an animal and please report any out of the ordinary behavior.
4. Can I take a few tadpoles home for my kids to watch grow
No, this park and its staff are dedicated to protecting wildlife. We cannot remove anything from the park.
5. I have a critter living under my house, how do I get it out of
The best way to handle wildlife that is around your house is to leave it alone when ever possible. Generally, animals will leave on their own after a while.
6. Should I use moth balls to get rid of animals?
No, moth balls are very poisonous. They harm the environment and put children and pets at danger.
7. What does poison ivy look like?
Poison ivy has 3 leaves and it has a very hairy vine. Please stay on the trail.
8. The beavers are cutting down all the trees, are you going to
do any thing about it?
Beavers are a part of this park's ecosystem. We let nature take its course whenever possible. A leaning tree that appears to be dangerous should always be reported to a staff member.
9. Can you fish at the pond?
Yes, fishing is allowed at Walney pond. You do need a proper fishing license.
10. Do ticks from the park carry lyme disease?
Yes, they can. Staying on the trail and using insect repellant will help reduce your risk to tick exposure.