One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Something edible–for wildlife only!–is ripening now.

If you have a guess of what it is, please post in the comments. I’ll check back later!

~~~

Maybe another hint?

The fruits of the Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, are ripening now and their flesh being picked at by the birds: Cardinals, titmice, bluebirds, and the juncos–when they arrive.

They won’t last long, even if they aren’t very tasty! We squirrels find that birds are’t that picky.

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Leaf hider

While Hickory and I were looking at the Devil’s Walkingstick last week, we found this fellow hanging out on a nearby sumac.

We were so surprised we circled around the tree. The praying mantis followed us, waving its spiky arms!

Even going under the leaf to get a better view of us with its pin-point little eyes.

“We aren’t prey!” Hickory chittered.

Uh, for a praying mantis at least.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

It’s not only acorns that are falling, the leaves are following…

or more specifically, this leaf has fallen. If you know what kind it is, or just have a guess and want to play, give me an answer in the comments!

~~~

We squirrels don’t see this too often–a doubly compound leaf. The smaller leaflets are actually leaflets of the larger leaf. In fact, Miz Flora tells us that this small tree can even have triply compound leaves!

It’s a Devil’s Walkingstick or Hercules Club, Aralia spinosa, which if you try to climb the trunk, your paws will tell you exactly correct. Usually growing at the sunny edges of woods, this native tree can grow to 20 feet tall where they lean their huge flower heads out, letting bees and butterflies find them.

Now, in the fall, each of the tiny flowers has become a berry.

We squirrels don’t eat them–can’t get to them!–but they seem to disappear. It’s the birds, of course, thrushes, sparrows and pigeons, but Miz Flora says she’s seen fox and skunk eating them. And chipmunks–they must be waiting for them to fall! That’s the only way to get them that Nutmeg and I can figure out.

 

Even if it’s not something we eat, this is a pretty cool tree that seems almost hidden from humans.

And it’s…gone.

Our readers might have heard us squirrels mention how good those Monarch chrysalises are. But I swear, those of us here on The Squirrel Nutwork have sworn off them to help butterflies! Well, Hickory and I found a sad sight this week on our jaunt around the neighborhood.

A chrysalis eaten!

As we circled and chittered and pondered who it might have been, the culprit returned.

Can you believe it?

We think it’s a paper wasp–but we didn’t want to get too close!

 

What’s better than one mushroom?

A whole ring of mushrooms!

Well, not quite whole, but you get the idea. Some humans call this a fairy ring, and we squirrels hate to disappoint you, but there is nothing magical about mushrooms growing a ring.

Or so says Miz Flora.

When Hickory and I found this ring, we took our elderly neighbor squirrel over to get her expert botanical opinion. This is what she said:

“Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungus, and appear at the edges of the underground mycelia–like roots of fungus. Those mycelia grow outward in all directions from where it first sprouted. Do you kits see any signs of a tree once being here?”

Hickory and I poked around. “Here it is!”

“That fungus,” said Miz Flora, “started decomposing the tree, or likely the tree stump or its underground remains, if the humans had the stump ground out. It has spread every year, wider and wider, working to break down those wood cells. If you come back next fall after a good rain like we’ve had, then you’ll find another ring, just a bit bigger.”

“But what about the knocked over mushrooms?” Hickory asked. “Does that hurt the fungus?”

“Nope.” She flicked her tail. “That only stops them from spreading more spores. That fungus is doing fine underground.” She looked around. “But I sure would like to see another tree on this bare corner rather than grass.”

What squirrel wouldn’t?