The five leaf vine and the three leaf vine…

We squirrels see that you humans are still fervently searching to learn which is the vine that causes the nasty rash. Sometimes it’s not easy to sort these leaves of five and three, especially if they are growing close together.

Here’s a great example of both the five leaflet and three leaflet leaves on the same plant…or so you might think, if you don’t look closer. That’s the poison ivy, three leaflets, on the outside. The five leaflet leaf in the middle is Virginia Creeper.

These two native vines are growing side by side from separate plants. The separate seeds were likely dropped by bids perching on this favorite log after they’d eaten the berries of the different plants.

But to make matters evermore confusing, the five leaved Virginia Creeper is trailing over the ground and near another three-leaflet plant that is not Poison Ivy.

Those are blackberry sprouts, that will turn into arching canes that look somewhat shrubby.

The blackberry leaves are in threes or fives, much like others of their rose family. They have more teeth along the edges of the leaflets and thorns. The thorns are the real giveaway that this is a member of the rose family, and not one of the other two vines.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this flower?

Give us a guess in the comments and I’ll Be back to check your answers!


These tiny yellow-green flowers are Poison Ivy flowers! Yes, they are barely noticeable, but woo-hoo, do they cause a lot of angst among you humans. In the fall, the clusters of drupes–the fruit–will tempt songbirds.

Afterward, the seeds inside will be deposited here and there, sprouting new poison ivy shoots where once there was none.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week – Burning Bush

Burning Bush, Euonymus alatus, doesn’t stand out as a particularly pretty shrub right now.

The tiny white flowers aren’t anything exciting.

But then autumn comes…

This plant is HOT for gardeners who want showy fall color. The name…get it? And yes, the birds do eat the berries produced by those tiny flowers…and spread them.

And spread them.

This entire patch of forest has an understory of only Burning Bush. For a while, plant enthusiasts planted Burning Bush extensively, not realizing how invasive this native from Asia is. In fact, a number of different Euonymus plants are now spreading in North America. Please learn to recognize the young plants and remove them.

We’ve reached the last day of National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

Unfortunately, we have not reached the end of invasive species. There are many more. Know what plants you are buying at nurseries or being offered by well-meaning friends. If something grows ‘incredibly well here,’ then that’s suspicious. Look the plant up online. Check several sources. (One we checked for Bush Honeysuckle made no mention of it being invasive or that it’s on numerous ‘prohibited to plant’ lists.) Check local arboretums, extensions services and park websites.

Or best, go too

Thanks! We squirrels appreciate you humans keeping nature natural…becasue some of us wildlife are tempted by new berries way too much!

National Invasive Species Awareness Week – Bush Honeysuckle

You humans may be enjoying this shrubby honeysuckle’s blooms right now!

The flowers are similar to the vining Japanese Honeysuckle, and Bush Honeysuckle, Loncera sp, is also native to Asia. In our North American woodlands, it is the first shrub to leaf out. It blocks the sunlight from shorter plants, often native wildflowers that ONLY emerge and bloom in the spring. If shaded, they won’t complete their cycle, and the Bush Honeysuckle quickly takes over any sunny location, spreading its woody boughs to 20 feet wide and high.

The flowers produce a juicy, red berry that our birds do enjoy…however, take that with a grain of salt, as you humans like to say. This only means that the berries can be spread far and wide, dropping a super-grower throughout the woodlands–or your yards!

The small sprouts are putting more energy into their leaves than roots and seem to come up easily, so put on your detective  hat and learn to identify this invasive.

The simple leaves grow opposite each other. They remind us squirrels more of dogwood leaves than the rounded leaves of vining Japanese Honeysuckle. The classic honeysuckle flowers sprout at the joint of the leaf to the stem, thus in twos, and the bright red berries follow in the same spot.

We don’t have a photo of the berries, but the Missouri Department of Conservation has excellent photos on their Bush Honeysuckle page.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week – Yellow Iris on Thirsty Thursday


Ol’ Wally here.

Bet you folks didn’t think this old squirrel would have an invasive plant on his Thirsty Thursday. But Nutmeg made sure I found a water-loving one. There are many, Water Hyacinth and Purple Loosestrife are others, but we’ll focus today on Yellow Iris, Iris pseudacorus. 

You humans may think this is like any other iris you plant in your yard. The pretty flower looks the same, and blooms at the sometime, May-June. The leaves look the same, though can grow taller and be mistake for cattail leaves. But this iris, also known as Yellow Water Iris and Yellow Flag, likes its roots in water.

Oh, it likes its roots in water! And it doesn’t behave the same as in its native homes of Europe and parts of Asia and Africa.

Yellow Iris produces seeds, but it’s the aggressive rhizomes on this iris that allow it to spread far and fast. The dense mats they form quickly crowd out other water plants. No native plants survive once Yellow Iris gets a hod of a pond.

Do you know what they means for the insects living there? For the ducks looking for a few tasty roots. You got it, water desert.

Steer clear of this one, folks!

National Invasive Species Awareness Week – English Ivy

For our second invasive plant that humans grow on purpose, we’ve chosen English Ivy, Hedera helix. As you may guess from the name, English or common ivy is originally from Europe. Many plants and animals were introduced to the New World because colonists either used them for a medicinal or food purposes, or couldn’t imagine living without them.

English Ivy did have medicinal value, all the way back to the times of Hippocrates and the ancient Greeks. We squirrels are not recommending these treatments. We are simply stating that early peoples found uses for the plant and wanted to continue those uses, such as preventing intoxication, reducing swelling, and as an anesthetic.

Also, from a gardeners’ perspective, English Ivy will grow in shade, requires little care and will spreads by root runners and by seed. Again, now we know these habits are detrimental to the health of our native plants.

Interestingly, English Ivy only flowers when it has upright shoots, such as traveling up a tree or building. It does damage both when doing this, by sending its roots under bark and into masonry, allowing water and fungus to grow.

Thus, we recommend that you remove the ivy from your trees and buildings first. Cut the vines without cutting the tree bark to prevent harm to trees. The humans we squirrels have been observing in our neighborhood used a tool, like a screwdriver, to lever up the vines to cut them. They then remove the vine from the base of the tree to ensure they got all of them and often cut back a circle of vegetation.

The plant will die on the tree and soon will be brittle enough to break off.

Hickory and I are doing our part by running up and down the trunks to loosen it so it falls faster. Pass the word to your squirrel friends in your neighborhoods!

When removing the vines from the ground, it’s best to wait until after a recent rain so the soil is wet and giving. Then you humans have the best chance of having the roots come up with the vine. Any piece of root left in the ground will sprout anew. Sorry, but you might be removing for several years to come, but it should become less and less.

Be sure to replace the ivy with native plants–plenty of them thrive in the shade. But that’s a story for another post!

National Invasive Species Awareness Week – Periwinkle

We prefer talking about native plants on this blog, but we squirrels are well aware that many plants out there are not native. These plants and animals are called ‘invasives,’ and they don’t operate in their own special world. They affect other, native plants and animals in our habitat in many ways, like competing for space, or homes, or eating all the food up, or killing our native animals.

This year, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, is from May 16-23. We squirrels just noticed this, because we saw it on another nature blog from our area. They are probably prepared and going to feature many more plants and animals, so you might want to leap on over to Capital Naturalist’s blogspot. This is their 2018 post from when they first posted for invasive week. We can’t seem to find a ‘home page’ on Blogspot, but that’s us squirrels for you!

Here on The Squirrel Nutwork, we do have a few invasive photos on hand, and we’ll post a few plants that you humans might plant on purpose. They may not have been considered invasive years ago, but now they are.

Let’s start with Periwinkle, Vinca major and Vinca minor. 

This vining plant, also known as creeping myrtle, is named for it’s blue flower–which unfortunately, we don’t have a photo of! But our tech-savvy human readers can search for it. Or likely you already know what it looks like!

Periwinkle is often sold as a plant that fills in over mulch or provides a nice ground cover. Wherever a tip of the plant touches the ground, it can root. The root will then send up a new shoot, and thus the plant spreads.

Really spreads. It doesn’t observe social distance, er, boundaries with other plants. Periwinkle will go right through them.

Yes, the flower is pretty, but nothing in North America pollinates it. Nothing eats periwinkle. Not even deer. We hate to admit it, because that alone will probably encourage some of you humans to go buy some. But by planting periwinkle, you are making your yard a desert for bees and other insects that need habitat.

This makes us sad. Didn’t we tell you that we preferred to talk about native plants?

We squirrels and other animals need your help to keep invasive plants from pushing us out. Keep watch for invasives and help out the plants and animals in your neighborhood by removing them. Or not planting them in the first place!

Thank you!