Cardinal Cleaning

The birds are fledging, all over the neighborhood.

young Northern Cardinal

This young cardinal took a break from begging off his parents to sun on Hickory’s favorite deck.

young Northern Cardinal

He did a great job cleaning all over.

young Northern Cardinal

Notice how he’s spread his tail feathers to support this vigorous scratching.

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Thirsty Thursday

I’ve leaped across another good drainage sample to show you. The rocks hold the soil in place, but allow the water to seep into the ground if it can, which Ol’ Wally here thinks is important. Why cart the water off to someplace there is more water when we need it right here, on our plants, nurturing our trees.

permeable drainage

The humans here extended this permeable channeling back a ways so it directs the water away from their structures.

permeable drainage

You can see places the water is collecting and staying damp–like where the moss is growing. This is a good thing! More little niches the little plants can get a root-hold in.

moss growing in a permeable drainage

Good job, human folks!

Blue Flag Iris

As some of our regular readers know, Miz Flora is a sucker for anything purple. And though she loves native plants (and cannot understand why humans go in for those rigged up non-natives that take extra care and give us wildlife no food) she always points out the purple ones, usually with a quiet comment, “Your readers might like to see that one.”

Blue Flag Iris

I tried looking it up. This might be Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor. It is planted on a piece of Reston Association land in our neighborhood. Those people are pretty conscientious about planting native plants. Perhaps I should send them a message and ask.

Blue Flag Iris

It’s a beautiful look, growing thick like this. No weeds either!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s your week’s mystery!

mystery #57

This is NOT a Pawpaw.  I just want to make that clear. Sorry if I have disappointed any of you.

Give me a guess!

~~~

This is an Oak Apple Gall. These galls are formed from chemical reactions given off by a wasp larvae when it chews its way into a newly forming leaf in early spring. Instead of growing properly, the leaf creates a home around the larvae that grows as it does, until June or July when the larvae changes to a wasp and chews its way out of the gall. This one obviously dropped from the tree early, possibly by a, er, squirrel biting off branches to add to his leaf nest.

Here is a website explaining more details of the life cycle of the wasp.

Pawpaw Tree

Remember those beautiful Zebra Swallowtails we featured on the last day of the Blogging A to Z Challenge? If not, take a link back to April 30th! Their caterpillars eat Pawpaw leaves.

Pawpaw Tree leaves

The Pawpaw tree, Asimina triloba, grows along streams and river bottoms. The leaves are really plain, but can get huge – 10 to 12 inches long. If your backyard is on a stream, or kind of wettish, you could grow one of these, and sing that song Miz Flora sings: “Pickin’ up paw-paws, put ’em in your pockets.”

Hickory and I aren’t quite sure if this is something squirrels want to do, but we’ll find out and let you know. And maybe we’ll be able to find some larger trees later in the season to show you. Ones with pawpaws.

Dogwoods Disappearing

Pink Flowering Dogwood

Dogwood. It’s a Virginia favorite –the state tree and the state flower. But we don’t see too many Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, trees in the wild. They’ve been hit with dogwood anthracnose, a fungus that’s spread down the Appalachian mountains over the last 20 to 25 years. It makes the leaves wilt and die, cutting off food to the entire plant.

Miz Flora says nearly every front yard in our neighborhood had a Flowering Dogwood planted in it 40 years ago. Today, next to none–Hickory and I found it too depressing to go around and count. So we squirrels are enjoying the few we do have remaining in our neighborhood, and most of them seem to be the pink ones that have been tinkered with in some way. Maybe they aren’t as susceptible.

Thirsty Thursday

Hello, folks. Virginia feels like it’s in the swing of summer, so of course our thoughts turn to swimmin’ holes. A regular reader sent a photo of a beautiful one from her neck of hte woods, which does happen to be Virginia as well. Thanks over there!

freshwater pond

The Yellow Iris are pretty. Though this old squirrel got to thinking about that little turtle I saw last week. You see, these here plants grow thick around the perimeter of this pond. And if you’ve ever tried to gnaw through an iris stalk, you know they’re stiff as cardboard.

Yellow Water Iris

How’s a turtle to walk himself in or out of there? On the flip side, if he can wedge himself in, he’s got a darned good hiding spot!

Plant ID Help

Sometimes even Ms Flora doesn’t know what the plants are. Here’s an old flowering shrub in our neighborhood — which dates back to the early 1970s. It’s probably not native, since she doesn’t recognize it. Anyone know what it is?

flowering shrub

That photo is from back in April when Miz Flora was having me collect information to figure this out. The flowers look somewhat like honeysuckle, but white.

shrub flower

The leaves do look like honeysuckle leaves.

shrub leaves

The trunk is very old, the bark somewhat shreddy looking. It’d be easy to peel it off to add to your leaf nest.

shrub trunk

And ideas?