O is for Oakleaf Hydrangea

Sooo, usually we squirrel like to point out Oak trees for our Blogging A to Z Challenge. But we think you already know how important oaks are to squirrels–and they are starting to leaf out now! Boy, are those buds tender and tasty!

Oak trees

This year, let’s look at a lesser known oak plant that isn’t really an oak at all. Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, is a native shrub that has been in these parts longer than azaleas.

Oak Leaf Hydrangea

It doesn’t produce acorns, but the flowers at the start of summer are nice. We write tons about Oakleaf Hydrangea in the past, so won’t repeat it; just read here!

So that’s our plug for giving a native a try. Leap your day away!

N is for Nice Habitat on Thirsty Thursday

This old squirrel is struggling to match a ‘N’ Blogging A to Z Challenge post with his regular Thirsty Thursday column. Ol’ Wally here has searched around, but he doesn’t seem to have ever seen a newt at our backyard ponds, just a Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal at backyard pond

Maybe one thirsty bird does fit, after all, that’s the point of writing about water. And, heh, I see I’m not the first to see it happen.

Cardinal sundial birdbath

But after a little thought I decided our gardening readers might be a little more inspired by seeing what a few years in a sunny spot will do for your water-loving plants.

frog pond

Nice, huh? And if you clever human readers have any suggestions of other ‘N’ related water items, shoot me a  message.

L is for Ladybird Bettle

Or Ladybug, if you prefer the short name.

Ladybug

This friendly little insect is truly a beetle. It has two hard outer coverings–the red parts–that cover the wings. The name for the beetle group describes this rather nicely: Coleoptera. It’s from Greek words koleos–sheath– and pteron–wing. That’s sheathed wings, and if you look carefully when one takes off, that’s exactly what you’ll see! Kind of appropriate, when you also know this little warrior goes after other insects.

K is for Kit on Motionless Monday

Hey there,

Finding a ‘K’ wildlife statue is harder than I thought. Do you humans realize Katydid and Kingfisher statues might make nice additions to your gardens? I am determined to keep with my regular column theme and the Blogging A to Z Challenge, so finally had to fall back on an old favorite:

Squirrel wildlife statue

Yes, for today, we are saying this is a ‘kit’, what a young squirrel is called when he is still in the nest. You know we had to get squirrels in one day, right? And they are quite cute in real life.

Gray Squirrel kitsThis photo was sent with permission to use it a few years ago by reader Anna. here is our original post with lots of links to more squirrel information.

Enjoy your Monday!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

It’s Sunday again and I–Hickory–am your squirrel host for our Sunday mystery photo.

Mystery #112

No hints today, other than these blossoms popped overnight in our suburbs of northern Virginia!

I’ll be back later to check your guesses!

~~~

We did have a correct guess today, and another that is a related tree. Thanks for playing with us!

However, now I’m here scratching my furry head. Ms. Flora always calls these trees Wild Cherry, and they are, honest! But when I went to the books to properly identify the particular species, there is no “wild cherry.” I think they may be the Pin Cherry, but I’m gonna have to do my homework on that one…by waiting until the leaves come out to be sure they match. Yes, um, er, ahem. Sorry about not having a positive identification for you all. Got a little excited. The trees are blooming, it’s warm, spring might finally be here to stay…I’m sure you all know the feeling in your furry bellies.

In the meantime, please cast your gazes on the clouds of white lining your roadways and see if the tiny blossoms are five-petaled. These wild cherry trees sprout about anywhere the birds drop their pits. The cherries are single and small, about the size of you human readers call pea-size. And tasty to birds, squirrels and chipmunks. Please do not try then if you are a human reader, we cannot say they are safe for you! Just safe to admire.

J is for Japanese Honeysuckle

So, it’s spring, and we squirrels are reveling in the warmth and color of nature. We see you humans enjoying it, too! One of the plants you may see in your neighborhoods is Japanese Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica.

Japanese Honeysuckle

This vine isn’t native to North America, but certainly has made itself at home…in fact, it’s ousted many of our native plants from their homes! The semi-evergreen honeysuckle is invasive, and covers over the ground, then native shrubs and trees in its efforts to spread. The flowers may smell fabulous, and provide some cover for birds, but not even the most agile squirrel can get through it’s tangles. Please consider removing Japanese Honeysuckle. It only needs a bit of toe-hold in the yard to take over.

Here’s a good National Park Service fact sheet with more descriptions and how to manage this invasive plant.

In past years during the Blogging A to Z Challenge we’ve featured native wildflowers. If you’d like to see those–Jewelweed and Jack-in-the-Pulpit–just go over to our search bar and type in ‘J is for’ and they should all pop up for you. You can do that for any of our alphabet posts.

I is for Iris

If you’re expecting the fancier garden variety of iris, Ms. Flora won’t let us show that any more than the garden-type geraniums.

Crested iris

This low-growing–shorter than your average squirrel–native is Crested Iris, Iris cristata. We don’t see it much, probably because it likes to grow in rich woodlands which unfortunately aren’t in abundance in the suburbs. But what a treat when you do leap across them!