One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

With the effort of completing our Blogging From A to Z Challenge, I–Hickory squirrel–considered skipping out on today…but couldn’t let you down. Also, it’s an anniversary for this column!

Our Mystery column has been running on Sundays for 4 years, having started in April of 2012. We have taken some Sundays off and take a winter hiatus, so today is the 150th mystery I have posted.

In honor of that, here is the first mystery I posted.

mystery #150

No cheating by looking back! (Ha, but who can stop you?)

I’ll check in later with your answer!


We had a correct guess today! Yes, these are oak catkins, all dried up and blown together in a heap along our streets.


‘Catkins’ are the male flowers, in this case of oak trees, that carry the pollen. If the wind blows the right direction, sending the pollen grains to the female flowers on the branches, they will eventually make acorns.

White Oak

With this many catkins we’re sure it will!

Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

Isn’t he–or she?–a beauty?

Funny that right after we say we’ve shown too many plants, we focus on insects…and feature many of them! But we’ll end with a plant, too, because this butterfly’s caterpillar feeds on only one plant, the leaves of the Common Paw Paw, Asimina triloba.

It’s pretty little understory tree that lives along streams and rivers in the east–which means this is where you will find the Zebra Swallowtail living! The purple flowers are in bloom now on mature trees.

Common Paw Paw flower

Common Paw Paw tree in bloom

And thus we come to the end of another April with the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. We had a great time and hope you did, too!

Y is for Yellow Poplar

The Yellow Poplar tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, also known as the Tulip Tree and the Tulip Poplar, is not yellow! It’s leaves are green like most other trees’.

Yellow Poplar leaves

But its flower is yellow and it looks like a tulip.

Tulip Tree flower, inside view

Tulip Tree Flower

The flowers produce seedpods in the fall that look like rows of candles upon the leaves and sprinkle apart to the ground, not at like the flying wings of the maple smarts. And we have no clue what eats them.

Tulip Tree Seedpods

Maybe that’s why there are so many Yellow Polars around here.

Yellow poplar trees grows straight and are the tallest hardwood tree in out eastern woodlands.

Tulip Trees in foreground, Oak in background

X is for X-tra special bird on Thirsty Thursday

Ol’ Wally here knows you humans will be thrilled to hear that we squirrels periodically see this frightening bird. Right here in Reston.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles hold some sort of celebrity status with you humans, and though we know they are probably hunting fish in the golf course ponds–not squirrels in the woodlands–seeing the shadow of this big bird of prey is downright unnerving. Lucky for us, they like bigger streams and lakes, ones farther from us. The older birds, the ones who appear to be bald because their head feathers are white, have laid claim to territory along our area’s best waterways, like the Potomac River.

Still, for our readers, we will feature them. After all, X is a mighty hard letter to come up with something for in nature…especially related to water…unless you consider xylem, the passages in trees that transport water from the roots to the leaves…but Nutmeg hasn’t figured out how to photograph that.

W is for Wasps

Wasp on MilkweedWell, not what you might have expected us to feature on a nature blog, but some these later letters do get tricky…and we noticed an unusually high proportion of plants in our month’s challenge.

Wasp on a web

Wasps include hornets and yellow jackets, are related to bees and ants and are old, old old. They date back to the time of dinosaurs! After being around that long, they have 30,000 different species. Er, those are the identified ones…

wasp on boneset

I suppose all that time on earth allowed them to develop the perfect way to survive–stinging–which didn’t used to make them too popular among you humans. These days, you’re putting out houses for them!

wasp and bee house

wasp and bee house

Thank goodness someone remembers wasps are beautiful and a part of nature.

U is for Unusual Statue on Motionless Monday

Hey There,

Monday is the day The Squirrel Nutwork features wildlife statues found on our travels–or yours! Feel free to send us your favorites! We’re trying to stick to our regular columns as we go through the Blogging From A to Z Challenge, but…it’s been a challenge. Some days we are so excited about an idea for letter that we forget–like last Thursday when Nutmeg had already posted R is for Redbud. Not much to do with Thirsty Thursday.

And then there is U

U is a difficult letter. Very few things are names with a U in nature. Maybe that’s what makes Unicorns so Unique? And we have hot seen a unicorn statue. So, here’s our ‘Unusual Statue’.

ant statue

Pretty cute, huh? Of all the one’s we’ve posted over our four years of blogging, we four squirrels decided it’s the most unusual. Have a great day!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to solve

Hey there!

Here’s a simple leaf for today’s mystery plant.

Mystery #149


Give me your guesses in the comments and I’ll check in later!


One of our most active commenters posted the answer to today’s mystery–but in clue form!

Sarasinart said: “It could be seen as a bunch of weeds or a thousand wishes.”

Exactly right!


Unfortunately, the dandelions in our neighborhood had long curving stalks, so we didn’t manage to any of their seedheads in focus. This is our attempt to fix that.

dandelion seedhead


Clearly Nutmeg was not having a good photo day! But we figure you know what a dandelion looks like! Each one contains so many seeds because each yellow petal on the dandelion’s flower head is actually a flower itself, each producing a seed. No wonder they are so successful!

T is for Towhee

Eastern Towhee female

Ol’ Wally remembers when Towhees were called Rufous-sided Towhees–see the reddish side feathers–but you humans have shortened that to Eastern Towhee.

We see the Towhees when we’re digging in the underbrush looking for acorns we hid. They like thickets and and though the males are most strikingly marked, they’re good at hiding in dense foliage.

Eastern Towhee with red eyes

Females like this one are particularly hard to see with their more brownish coloring. That makes hiding while hatching eggs easy, though doesn’t explain why they have red eyes.