May is for Mayapples

It’s nearly the end of May and we haven’t posted a single Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum.

Ms. Flora isn’t pleased, but the rains have gotten us off schedule. So here you go!

For those not familiar, this very different, umbrella-like leaf is the Mayapple plant.

Those broad leaves hide a flower that blooms only if the Mayapple is old enough to have two leaves. Look very carefully here and you’ll see the flower growing from the axil of the leaves.

A single and sometimes double flower–if pollinated–then produces the ‘Mayapple’ – a little fruit that is poisonous, except when it is ripe.

How can you tell it’s ripe? By smell, of course. Humans aren’t good at this, so don’t try. Just put this on your poisonous list.

But if you see box turtles or other critters taking a bite, don’t be alarmed. It’s a spring treat!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

What is this shrub?

Put your guesses in the comments and I’ll check back later!

~~~

This new shrub joins others in out neighborhood, but this time the humans put it in full sun! Ms. Flora says that’s okay–Virginia Sweetspire, Itea virginica, can tolerate both. It even tolerates out heavy Virginia clay soil–but as the name should tell you, that’s because it’s native to Virginia!

The shrubs in the sun definitely has more flowers. The ‘spires’ bloom from the inside out, so it seems to bloom for a very longtime.

Pretty little star flowers. They seem to be attracting insects, but we haven’t had a whole lot of butterflies around this year, which makes us sad. Everyone, we hope you keep planting flowers to feed those bees and butterflies! Virginia sweetspire is supposed to be a easy one to keep and be interesting for humans all year long. We squirrels just want berries, but this doesn’t seem to provide any. Nevertheless, have a look at what else the Piedmont Master Gardeners have to say about it!

Happy World Turtle Day!

Our human readers know that we squirrels spot turtles in the woods,

at our local ponds,

in lawns,

and even crossing the streets (And they say only squirrels are crazy enough to do that!)

We also appreciate the efforts of American Turtle Rescue (ATR) who have shellebrated May 23rd as World Turtle Day since 2000 when they wanted to educate people about turtles around the world and the troubles they are facing. Visit their World Turtle Day website to learn more and enjoy your local turtles in their natural habitat!

Except for the ones in the street–please help them across in the direction they are going!

Are you still feeding the birds?

Many humans feed birds throughout the year. Some only feed in the winter, when food is scarcer for the birds–and us squirrels, mind you! We have seen some humans stop feeding when grackle or starling flocks invade their feeding stations. Believe us, we don’t like the noise and the mess of those big, pushy flocks either.

One of our human neighbors is feeding the birds and has quite a variety of birds coming to visit.

Ms. Flora commented on the pleasant coo of the Mourning Dove, which I’ve noticed, but it’s so common it’s like a background music when we leap around the neighborhood. Mourning Doves are practically everywhere except deep woods, and we don’t have too much of that in suburbia.  Hickory and I thought we would look up a little bit about it. We didn’t realize that these birds are hunted! They are no bigger than a robin, so why would people want to eat them?

But they do, and apparently that led to uninteresting discovery: A dove shot in 1998 in Florida had been banded–in 1968 in Georgia. That made the bird at least 30 years and 4 months old! We had no idea these small birds lived that long–to us squirrels, that’s like forever, and something we would only have thought would be the lifespan of something as large as a hawk.

Mourning doves are kind of like chickens, in that they prefer to scratch and pick their food off the ground. We have sort of battle going with them under the feeders. They are round enough that they don’t seem to like perching feeders, but will eat off those tray feeders.

They’re mighty quick to land and take offer and do startle easily. If you haven’t heard their coo, here’s a link to a nice recording of it on All About Birds.

Thirsty Thursday

Hello Folks!

Ol’ Wally here has finally gotten into the swing of things this spring and managed to get down to the pond. After our rain, rain and more rain, we squirrels and the turtles are appreciating the sun.

This is one old Eastern Painted turtle–we are assuming. See that splash of ‘paint’ on her cheek? Female turtles always grow bigger than the males, but we are assuming that as well!

Hard to believe our temperatures will soar into the 80s this weekend, but there you go!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We have a flower and an…insect for you identify today.

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

~~~

Here’s a little hint:

This tree is blooming now–it’s a Hawthorn, Crataegus sp., sometimes called May-tree (it blooms in May), thornapple or hawberry–because all of those pollinated flowers become little red fruits or ‘apples’ in the fall.

The insect doing the pollinating is a honeybee – family identifiable by the yellow and black stripes on its abdomen. Many insects were visiting these flowers the day Nutmeg and I ran down to visit it, including what we think is a mason bee.

The all black abdomen matches the bees we see going in and out of the mason bee house.

The branches of the hawthorn are loaded with flowers and insects seeking the nectar and pollen. If you look closely, you might see a few that scattered off when I shook the branches!

Tulip trees are in bloom!

We squirrels ran across a tulip tree growing along a street, and guess what? It had branches all up that side that get sun.

Why is this important? Because it was blooming!

You humans have to realize how rare that is to see these flowers that are usually at the uppermost reaches of the canopy! We do! So here is a real treat to see the tulip-like tree flowers we talked about back on our April 23rd T is for Tulip Tree post.

And there are many more buds to provide the bees with these large pools of honey over the next week or so!

Trees & Shrubs for Bees ~ Our 2019 Blogging from A to Z Challenge Reflections

This year was the 10th year anniversary for the Blogging From A to Z Challenge, and the 8th year anniversary for us squirrels. In fact, we began our blogging in 2012 with this challenge.

We’re both proud and excited to complete our challenge. If you’ve spent any time poking around our website, you’ve likely noticed the line of ‘survivor badges’ our sidebar. We have not been able to find this year’s–and it’s not for lack of digging around! (Ok, Hickory found it–we have to complete a survey first. Ha, good way to get us to do that!)

On the A to Z site’s master list, we are number 592 of 685 blogs that sign-up this year. It’s the first time we’ve had a theme other than local nature observations from our neighborhood in suburban Washington, D. C. Our focus on woody plants that provide our bee neighbors bigger supplies of nectar and pollen is a very timely theme, one we are seeing more frequently in your human news as insect populations decline.

This is a scary thing for us. Our favorite food–acorns–are wind pollinated, but we squirrels eat a variety of other foods as well, including a lot of other nuts, berries, and yes, insects. We bet you humans might like a variety in your diet as well. I’m sure you can see where we are headed with this: we all need to be scared…and we all need to do something to help. Anything, no matter how small you think it may be.

Our April posts included: Fifteen flowering trees that help bees. Nine flowering shrubs that help bees. One insect that feeds on a tree. One structure that you can offer to supplement bee housing. We saw another blogger list his prior year’s posts in a review, so we’re offering that here.

The A to Z site suggested several questions that we might reflect on. We liked this one:

What was the best moment for you during this year’s challenge?

Our best moment was discovering that though we made a point about including native and honey bees, we honestly were thinking more about those hive bees, the colony dwellers. Right up until three-quarters of the way through the month when Hickory checked in on that mason bee house and discovered that the native bees were using it. That thing went up April 1st!

Within 3 weeks the bees were using half the tubes. We had no idea there were that many bees around. That many bees in need of places to lay eggs so desperately that they found this one house on a fence in one back yard.

See? Any little thing that you might do helps!

Read other 2019 A to Z Reflections here.

Thank you to Jeremy for the fantastic A to Z graphic–not just this year, but every year!

Thanks for being with us on this journey!