Y is for Yarrow

Five years ago on The Squirrel Nutwork, we featured Common Yarrow for Y day. Back then we were just building our photo files and it was spring and the local yarrow hadn’t bloomed. So our post–in which all four of us squirrels weighed in, see it here!–was of the feathery leaves, which are certainly beautiful, but we thought you’d like to see the flowers!

The native yarrow is white.

Usually, Miz Flora tells me. Apparently, she says, this plant was known across Europe and given its Latin name Achillea millefolium, by Linneaus. ‘Millefolium’ means ‘thousand leaves’ which it certainly does have. When explorers crossed North America, they found a yarrow they assumed was related. Because the leaves were fuzzier, another botanist, Thomas Nuttall, named it Achillea lanulosa, which is Latin for ‘wooly.’ Today, botanists group the yarrows together as one genus…although humans sometimes find pale pink flowers among the western, fuzzy-leaved yarrows.

Of course you humans have taken the plant and done all kinds of things to it to make it ‘prettier,’ so don’t be surprised if you go to a garden center and find yarrows blooming in colors from pink to red to purple and yellow to deep gold.

Flowers can be many things to many people!

T is for Turtlehead

Just take a look at these funny flowers!

Turtleheads are a fun plant that love moist soil. The little tricksters are designed so a bee gets completely brushed with pollen getting into the nectar at the bottom.

To see the bee completely inching in, hop back to our post entitled Getting Into Pink Turtleheads!

Just a side note that not all turtleheads are pink. The native ones are white, but we haven’t seen those in our suburban neighborhood. A human planted these showy pink ones.

Q is for Queen Anne’s Lace

By branching out of our season, we squirrels have a few more choices of plants to use for those difficult letters!

Queen Anne’s Lace, Daucus carota, is a summer-bloomer, a wildflower brought over from Europe. It supposedly is named for Queen Anne of England who was also a lacemaker. In North America, it can go quite wild and take over a field, but you humans probably see it most often lining rural roads.

The ‘jewel’ in the crown of flowers is simply another flower, but along with the naming story from Queen Anne, people say it’s a drop of blood she shed when she pricked herself!

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.