Summer is coming!

Yes, the days are longer, longer and the summer coneflowers are doing their best to bloom!

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May-apples…Hawthorn

What do you know–some common names are correct! The Hawthorn is living up to one of its–May-apple–with the ‘pome’ fruits beginning to ripen now, in May.

We took a look at this small tree’s other names, and we squirrels feel they are just as descriptive of some hawthorn characteristics:

Whitethorn = the blossoms are white, the branches are covered in thorns, as seen in this post.

Thornapple = again, the thorns and the ‘apple’ fruits.

Hawberry = those do look like berries, though scientifically they aren’t. Haw is an old English name for hedge, which these trees would make a mighty fine one of, in our humble opinion, but we understand that this is what people call the fruits over there.

Thirsty Thursday

Folks,

This week’s water column isn’t about water per se, but about what water does.

We’ve had a lot of rain in northern Virginia the last few days. A LOT, what Miz Flora calls ‘That blasted weather’. She’s particularly miffed because the rain has brought down flowers–from trees. Notice those white patches along the roadsides?

If your nose hasn’t been tuned upward, there’s been a fragrance in the air–the sweet Black Locust blossoms.

Yes, we know that phrase is usually refers to magnolias, but trust me, black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, is sweet, or so we consider it, and it’s a favorite of the honeybees.

That’s what makes us squirrels particularly sad–huge numbers of bees collect from black locust during the week they’re blooming. These pea-shaped flowers hang in bunches, called racemes Miz Flora says, and they make for easy nectar-gathering.

Unfortunately, they’re also heavy, so after Monday’s storm, most of the flowers and many branches ended up on the ground, even though this strong wood has traditionally been used for fence posts.

Sigh. If you’re a friend of bees, you might want to slip them some extra food during our predicted week of rain. Good timing if you managed to get your planting done last week though! I see plenty of oaks sprouting from acorns we buried last fall.

Catkins Coming Down!

If you’re dodging these masses of catkins rolling across your suburban streets, you know how we squirrels feel trying to to navigate the woods. We’re up to our bellies in oak catkins! Last week the male ‘flowers’ of the oak trees shed their pollen, coating our tree branches yellow, and this week the spent tassels have come down.

It’s all part of nature, folks. These fine plant materials contain no seeds and make great additions to your compost. Personally, we squirrels are hoping for a good acorn crop form their pollination!

Z is for Witch HaZel

It’s sad to admit that the end of the alphabet doesn’t get much attention from naturalists’ contriving nature names. So this year instead of resorting to a perennial favorite, the Zebra Swallowtail, which we have called on five of the last six years, we are again branching into the name to highlight a great shrub, the witch haZel to stand in for ‘Z.’

The witch hazel’s claim to fame is it flowers in the fall or winter, producing skin petalled flowers that remind some of you humans of spider legs. Get it? Spiders, Halloween, witches?

We don’t actually, but this is a pretty neat tree that grows a nut from those flowers that wildlife find pretty tasty.

Witch hazels appear in suburban gardens as shrubs,

but in the wild the native species, Hamamelis virginiana, is an understory tree.

Give a witch hazel a spot in your yard–lots of late and early foraging bees will appreciate that you have extended the blooming season!

And this ends our 7th year participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. We love sharing nature in our suburban neighborhood and hope or readers have enjoyed this month of nature blogging, too. We will take a few days off, then resume with our blogging in a more casual manner, as befitting a group of squirrels!

Happy Earth Day!

We squirrels can’t give our readers a better message, and frankly this human has more years’ experience on this planet than we do, so please listen to a message Google is sharing today, Earth Day 2018, with Dr. Jane Goodall.

“We have a choice as to what kind of difference we’re going to make.”

~ Jane Goodall

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

S is for “Susans”

Black-eyed Susans, specifically.

We squirrels see a lot of this beautiful summer flower, because it is native to eastern and central North America, but also because you humans seem to like its cherry color and daisy-like look. It’s a type of sunflower that you’ve developed a few varieties of, but there are also more than two dozen native black and brown-eyed species.

And if you absolutely insist that S Must Be For Squirrels, check out last year’s 2017 ‘S’ post which treated squirrels right!