X is for eXciting!

Yes, we’re poking at our letters today, but our little snake is an Xciting sight for some humans and is twisted into just the right shape!

For all the excitement a snake popping up in the garden causes, the ring-necked snake is one you can flick your tail at. It rarely gets over pencil-sized, and can easily be identified by the yellow to orange ring around the neck, or if you have scared it, the yellow-orange underbelly, as it tried to flash you nature’s warning color and chase you off.

And what do they eat, we would like you to ask? Slugs–every gardener’s bane–earthworms and salamanders.

V is for Viburnum

Another difficult letter in nature.

But…Viburnum!

Yes, it’s a good ol’ standby for V day. We believe this one is Doublefile Viburnum, Viburnum plicatum. Those flowers are lovely, aren’t they?

Well, you humans might think that, but a bee won’t. Have a closer look…

This outer ring of ‘flowers’ don’t produce nectar or pollen. The inner ones will, and then tasty little drupe fruits will form in the fall. This isn’t a native shrub to North America, but it’s one wildlife appreciates in the suburban landscape!

S is for Squirrels!

Yes, folks, squirrels.

And everything we love–

Big oak trees,

Acorns,

Leaf nests,

Birdfeeders,

Sunning on your decks

Running on the golf course.

This is our squirrel world and we love it.

 You see, today is Earth Day.

We hope you love your world, too. Maybe you’ll take care of it for all of us?

Happy Earth Day!

 

P is for Painted Lady

Specifically, the American Painted Lady butterfly!

You might see this beauty already. Painted Ladies migrate north in the spring from their wintering grounds in the Southwest. It’s one of the most widespread butterflies North America, so definitely look for Painted Ladies this summer. And you may need to look twice, because the underside of the wings is patterned differently from the topside.

Pretty cool, huh? Their populations vary from year to year, and scientists don’t know why. They do not migrate back in the fall, so die with the first frosts.

L is for Lenten Rose

No, it’s not a native, but Lenten Rose does grow nicely with a naturalized look. Even better it adds a very early, long-bloomer to your garden that will help bees and other insects when little else is blooming. And Miz Flora says here’s a tip you human gardeners will like: Deer and rabbits don’t like to eat Hellebores. Their leaves produce a poisonous alkaloid that tastes bad–but note this might bother humans with sensitive skin.

I is for Poison Ivy

We are repeating a favored perennial for ‘I” on the Blogging From A to Z Challenge: Ivy, of the poisonous kind!

Please consider this a nature service announcement! This native vine can be one of the nastiest you encounter in our woods, fields, and even your lovely foundation plantings. Notice we said ‘can be’. Some people do not react to this plant’s oils that cause itching. But with exposure, their tolerance can decrease, so it pays not to expose yourself unnecessarily.

In the spring, it looks like this:

In the fall it looks like this:

In the winter it looks like this:

Don’t get poison ivy this year. Know what it looks like so you can avoid it.

H is for Hawk

Traditionally, Monday on The Squirrel Nutwork is reserved for a column called Motionless Monday featuring wildlife statues. Hickory Squirrel hosts it. So normally, we would show a hawk like this:

Fun, huh?

That’s how we squirrels would rather see a hawk–motionless! But instead…

It’s no fun for us squirrels when the Cooper’s Hawks come visiting!

And lately…

A pair of Red-shouldered hawks are courting in our neighborhood, so we have to watch our over our shoulders all the time.

G is for Green and Gold

Lol, that’s one plant with two G names!

Unfortunately, neither of the Green and Gold plants in our neighborhood are blooming quite yet. And once we poked our noses closer, we discovered they are two different species, though Miz Flora assures us they are both Chrysogonum virginianum, and the non-fuzzy one is a subspecies. Hickory isn’t so sure, and that’s getting too detailed for me.

At any rate, this second one is fuzzier.

Green and Gold–sometimes called Golden Star–is a shade-loving ground cover that spreads, though not as fast as some of your human ornamentals. It’s a native aster with five petals that blooms fairly early, so that’s a help to the bees. And that it likes shady, moist soil is a help to lots of gardeners.

F is for Ferns

Miz Flora, our blog botanist, wanted us to share Ferns with you for F day in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge, because these more delicate plants are unfurling their fronds now. For many, those first fronds to open are their fertile fronds, the ones that bear their dust-like spores.

Once the ‘leaf’ fronds open, the weather should be trending to warmer…although plants can make mistakes, too!

These ferns are Sensitive Ferns, Onoclea sensibilis, which did gain their name because early American settlers noticed the fronds dying off with the first frost.