The Flowering Witch Hazel

Strange things happen this time of the year, not only in the human world, but also in nature. Bounding through the woods, you might not notice a small tree with its yellow fall leaves, but Miz Flora had pointed out the species on August 7. Since then Hickory and I have been waiting to see a Witch Hazel bloom–which they do in the fall! Now that’s a different tree. We did find a stand of native ones, Hamamelis virginiana. They are the short, low ones with the duller yellow leaves.

And still I nearly missed the blossoms. They are the same color as the leaves and tiny. See them?

Here’s another view of the four stringy petals.

And by the way, don’t say anything to Miz Flora, but she was wrong about the name coming from the bewitching time of year the Witch Hazel blooms. Nope, it’s because the branches of this plant was used for divining rods.

“Uh, Nutmeg?” Hickory said. “Divining, that’s using a stick to find water. To me, that sounds more witchy than finding a plant blooming at the wrong time of year.”

Hmm, when he puts it that way–“Race you home, Hickory!”

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Rain and Offerings?

The rain is coming down something fierce. Any squirrel who ventures outside his nest is in for a drenching. Luckily, all four of us know a spot with food aplenty. When my stomach growls reach the level of wind howls, I dash for this oak tree’s base.

 

Don’t think we’ll run out. But Hickory has also pointed out that if we get desperate we could also gnaw on one of the many pumpkins the humans are putting out.

They are on just about every doorstep, some sort of offering for the season that we don’t understand. Some have been cut making it easier to get to the inner pulp, but something about the designs makes me nervous.

Especially at night when they take on a glow.

Motionless Monday

Hey, I have something special for you this week in the realm of wildlife garden statues. Strange webbings have appeared in the neighborhood this week.

I’ve tracked the source to an extraordinary creature. Take a look at this, would you:

Nutmeg doesn’t agree, but I think seeing the biggest Black Widow Spider tops seeing the biggest Black Gum tree.

 

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey, there! How many of you recognize this?

Check in with you later!

~~~

Here’s another look for another clue.

The little red object is the berry of the Magnolia tree, ripe right now and falling from their seed pods. The red pulp is the part we squirrels eat. It’s quite tasty and worth the effort of getting to the seedpods before the birds do, despite the hard seed inside.

I’ve been bulking up this weekend, hoping it will help me ride out the coming storm! If you have your storm preparations made and want to look back at Nutmeg’s pictures of the Southern Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, blooming, that post was June 19th.

Storm Watch and A Big Tree

We’ve had fog in Reston for the last two mornings, but it’s cleared to give us beautiful, almost summer days. Yesterday it didn’t. Miz Flora told me, “My bones are a-achin’.”

“Uh, what’s that mean?” I had to ask.

“Storm’s a comin’,” she said and went back to her leaf nest.

Hickory and I ran out to the golf course to check it out. The skies were gray, but with high clouds.

“I don’t see a storm,” he said. “Let’s go run in that stand of big trees.”

We leap from branch to branch and I discovered one of the trees I thought was an oak had different leaves, all smooth and shiny. I called Hickory to stop and look, and for once he was impressed.

“It’s a Black Tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica. I had no idea they got this big.”

We admired it, and when I got home, I looked it up. While my book says the species grows 60 to 90 feet tall, the Virginia Big Tree Database, run by Virginia Tech, has listings from 70 to 122 feet tall.

Wow. Where does our tree fall? How does a human measure a tree?

Well, if Miz Flora’s predicted storm does hit us, I have some research to do while holed up inside.

Willow Oak Acorns

Hickory found another type of oak that he’s dragged me to see and taste. Sheesh, after he got into looking for acorns, we can’t get him to stop. The acorns are small and hardly worth it, but here it is:

The leaves of the Willow Oak, Quercus phellos, do remind us of willow trees, but they don’t hang in long strands.

I’m glad I went for a look, because it turned out it’s a very pretty tree, light and airy feeling, and we had fun playing in it.

Miz Flora says we better take advantage of the nice autumn weather – it’s likely to turn on us any day now.

Thirsty Thursday

We could hear the water falling in this small yard, but it took a younger squirrel than Ol’ Wally to find it.

Thanks to Hickory for helping out on locating this unusual water supply. I have to say, it does the job of providing water, plus alerting wildlife that it’s there with those many dripping spill-over things. The high location of the basin is impossible to reach for some small ground-travelling animals–can you see a toad jumpin’ that high?–but birds will love it. No bushes for cats to hid in. Of course, we squirrels can climb it with no problem, so it’s a fine bird bath-substitute for us.

Thanks humans for the fancy fountain!

Common Milkweed

We managed to find the main plant those Monarch butterflies feed on—Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca.  You don’t see them too often in the suburbs, but we found it growing along a sidewalk. Notice the chewed leaves at the top of the plants–we hope that is from Monarch caterpillars eating them!

The green pods are ripening with those fuzzy seeds that float everywhere.

I’m wondering where the ladybugs are—those little orange dots are aphids!

Monarch Waystation

Hickory and I ran across this beautiful yard full of flowering plants. As we rounded the post on the fence top, we noticed a sign we’d seen before closer to our leaf nests: Backyard Wildlife Habitat—a yard that offers food, water and shelter to wild animals.

But below it was a new sign: Monarch Waystation.

Hmm, this garden grows plants that help one specific butterfly. I did a little looking up and learned the Monarch lays its eggs in North America where the caterpillars feed on various types of milkweed plants. But after the caterpillars change to butterflies, they make a long trip to winter over in Mexico.

Wow, that’s a long trip, one a squirrel would never attempt. Now I understand the reason for the Waystation—Monarchs need all the help they can get.