Pokeweed, leave it or weed it?

American Pokeweed

The berries of American Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, are poisonous. And oh-so tempting to you humans, especially when they are in full ripeness –and at their most toxic!–this time of year.

Pokeweed in late summer

The plant is big and weedy and produces many berries. No wonder it can take over a farmer’s field!

Yet there are birds who will eat them with no harmful effects, like the Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Gray catbird and Brown Thrasher.

 

Mexican Sunflower

Mexican Sunflower standIt’s the end of summer and the sunflowers are standing tall. One of the best we squirrels have seen you human’s plant is the Mexican Sunflower–about 7 feet tall!

 

Tiger Swallowtail on Mexican Sunflower

And the butterflies, like this Tiger Swallowtail, sure seem to love them.

Mexican Sunflower

Thirsty Thursday

Nutmeg and Hickory have both shown you humans the Common Milkweed plant. Well, Ol’ Wally here has a milkweed a mite better.

Swamp Milkweed

How do you like them blossoms?? ‘Pretty in pink’ as I’ve heard humans say. This is Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, which is sometimes known as Pink Milkweed–but you know how Miz Flora hates common names, so we’ll stick to the proper one.

Aside from the brighter color, this milkweed flower doesn’t form a ball like Common Milkweed, but is more like the orange Butterflyweed in shape. And I bet you readers have already guessed–since this old squirrel is featuring this plant on the water column–that Swamp Milkweed likes a wet soil. Only wet, though, it won’t grow in standing water. Like the other milkweeds, it is highly attractive to nectar feeders, and the sap in the leaves (that the caterpillars eat) even contains the same toxins as Common Milkweed.

 

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a tiny mystery for you!

Mystery #157

What are these dots on the leaf? And for a bonus, what is the plant?

Check in with you later for your guesses!

~~~

Too tiny to make out? How about this one?

Monarch eggs on Common Milkweed

Or this one?

Monarch egg cluster

These are Monarch butterfly eggs! The female Monarch always lays them on a species of milkweed. This is the Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. In six days the teeny caterpillar will hatch.

Monarch caterpillar newly hatched, 6 days after egg laid

As it eats the milkweed leaves, it grows–this one about a week old.

Monarch caterpillar a week old How much they eat determines how fast they grow, and then how long it takes them to form a chrysalis. This caterpillar is ready.

Monarch caterpillar ready to turn to a chrysalis

Monarch Chrysalis

The butterfly emerges in 10-14 days, ready to start the process all over again!

Monarch butterfly

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Thought we’d do another double mystery. What is the butterfly and what flower is it visiting? Hope you noticed the butterfly is yellow! The flower is white, though that isn’t too clear in this photo.

Mystery #156

Give us your guesses and we’ll pop by later to check for correct answers!

~~~

Well folks, I’m sure some of you guessed this beautiful yellow butterfly is a Tiger Swallowtail–yellow and black stripes, right?  The plant is a little harder, though. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is native to the North America in the east and south. The leaves are rather plain, and could be mistaken for Red-twig Dogwood, which also grows in wet areas. However, buttonbush will only grow in wet areas, including swamps, floodplains and freshwater marshes. It’s sometimes called ‘buttonwillow’ because similar to willows, it likes wet roots.

Tiger swallowtail butterfly on Common Buttonbush

The flowers are little round balls, so we squirrels aren’t sure why you humans named it ‘button’ bush. Their nectar is attractive to insects–obviously!–and hummingbirds.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Sorry for the absence of new mysteries! Hope you had a chance to study up on those confusing vines before your summer outings!

This week’s mystery is a blooming tree!

Mystery #153

Do you recognize it? Give us a guess in the comments and I’ll return later with the answer!

~~~

We were surprised to discover this exotic-looking tree is a North American native! It’s a catalpa, but we must admit we are only guessing it’s the Northern Catalpa, Catalpa speciosa, because of where we live. It’s in a yard, and you humans tend to plant things out of their range for their flowers.

Catalpa flowers

Nice ones, huh? These flower panicles–fancy name for the flower cluster Miz Flora says–are rather showy and the tree is rather pretty, if given the right amount of room to grow.

Catalpa tree

It also has the coolest hanging seed pods in the fall, which hang on for a long time.

Catalpa seed pods

Did you notice the huge, heart-shaped leaves? They make an excellent rain shelter for wildlife, but more importantly they are the sole food of another butterfly! The caterpillars of the catalpa sphinx moth eat them and may even completely clear out the leaves of a single tree.

Catalpa tree underneath

Clearly, we need more catalpa trees out there!