Thirsty Thursday

Floating Island Raft in Floating Treatment Wetlands

Pretty island, isn’t it? Well, folks, this old squirrel has got news for you: That’s not just a pretty face. That’s a working island!

This is a suburban pond, one that catches the runoff from our streets and parking lots. And as you probably know, those places aren’t the cleanest to pick up a squashed acorn or the errant worm in a rainstorm. When it rains, that dirt washes to the streams, the rivers, then the Chesapeake Bay.

This here little pond is a catchment for dirt before it even gets out of town! The plants on the island raft are specially chosen because they don’t need their roots in soil. Instead, they float out there in the pond and pick minerals out of the dirty swirling water, minerals that would be harmful to the bay. Humans are calling this ‘Floating Water Treatment’ for urban runoff.

This FWT raft has a real mix of plants, though we only identified two of them because none of us squirrels were willing to go swimming. You have thin-leaved cattails on the left and in the middle is Pickerelweed, Pontederia cordite, the purple flowered plant.


Pickerelweed is one of those that really likes the water. Half of its four foot tall stem will be underwater.

Ol’ Wally here knew a little something about plants that cleaned up water, because they are planted in ‘rain gardens’. And of course any little backyard pond has floating plants in it, lilies and such. But I hadn’t heard tell of floating plants taking on city streets.

It takes more effort for you humans to collect and build these rafts, but we squirrels think it’s a good idea. Thanks for helping us out!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve


Can you tell we’re in a theme with summer wildflowers?

Mystery #98


Again, this one is blooming now! By the way, this is my 98th time posting the Nature’s Mystery column. Going to have to come up with something special for #100 two weeks from now!


Yes, we had a couple of correct guesses today! This is Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium Purpureum, one of the tallest native wildflowers in the east–they can be seven feet tall. Sadly, they are not strong enough for a squirrel to climb.

The flower heads are coming into bloom now and are a butterfly magnet. That is in normal years. This year we squirrels haven’t seen too many butterflies at all. How about you humans? Are you seeing many?

Thirsty Thursday

Folks, Ol’ Wally is feelin’ the heat these days, so this old squirrel took himself off to a shady woods spot. I noticed something…spotty about a pile of wood chips dumped from a recent tree cutting.

mushroom 1


Now, forgive me if this isn’t your idea of water, but on a hot summer’s day you know these mushrooms are only sprouting because they did find water. And apparently they didn’t all sprout at the same time, because as you will see, they mushrooms are at different growth stages, from just sprouting to dying. Now I can’t say if the  reason for this was just random, or if it had anything to do with shade versus sun or dry versus wetter areas of the pile. But I did find the different stages to be interesting.

mushroom 3

mushroom 2

mushroom 5

mushroom 4

Have a cool day!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

So we are going from last week’s obscure flower, to an even obscurer one!

Mystery # 97

This is actually a flower! Give me your guesses and I’ll check in later!


The mystery was solved today! This is the flower of a sedge.


I’m not going to try to go further than that with the identification, because… these things are hard! Miz Flora just laughed at me. It is easy however, to tell it’s a sedge, or a Carex in scientific terms, because “sedges have edges”. That means their leaves are not flat like grass, but triangular. You can kind of see it in the photo. And by the way, another grass-like plant that isn’t, is rushes. “Rushes are round”, meaning their plant leaves are round.

Thanks for joining us today!

Thirsty Thursday

One of our readers has sharp eyesight and recently spotted these in white objects in her yard on a Reston Lake. At the risk of sounding like Hickory, do any of you folks recognize them?

Turtle eggshells

Our reader quickly identified the soft leathery shells as turtle eggs.

However, she thought the baby turtles and hatched had made their way down to the lake. Ol’ Wally had bad news. Turtle eggs usually spend the summer incubating in the warm ground and hatch in late summer or early fall. And they don’t pull the eggshells up with them as they dig through the dirt.

Turtle eggs dug up

So unfortunately, those eggs were dug up, peeled open and the innards licked clean, probably by a raccoon.

Red-bellied Turtle

However, this Reston yard seems to be a favorite, because a week later these folks spotted another turtle digging her nest hole. We think from the stripes on her face, this is a Red-bellied Turtle. So far we hear these eggs have stayed in the ground!