Thirsty Thursday


You humans may not have recognized Hickory’s mystery plant on Sunday, but surely this wetland plant is familiar?

Cattails commonly grow in wet areas and that brown fuzzy thing on their stalks is their idea of a flower–which butterflies ignore. Its seeds are spread by wind like a dandelion’s and can take over with strong rhizome roots if the moisture conditions are right.


Thirsty Thursday

Well, folks, it’s been a few years since this old squirrel has seen a good stand of Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinals. But I did this week.

Is that a pretty sight, or what? This of course, was down by the pond. Cardinal Flower is one of those plants that likes its feet–well, its roots–wet.

You humans like it for the red flowers, and so do the insects and  hummingbirds. Makes it easy to spot. However, pretty much only the hummingbirds are successful at getting the nectar from a Cardinal flower–or any of the Lobelia family for that matter.

Might be hard for you to tell, but this type of flower is one Miz Flora calls ‘tubular.’ Among all those fancy bits of petal, is a backend that is so long that it takes a hummingbird tongue to reach the nectar. Some of the buds there at the top are a sample of that distance.

This is a mighty beautiful plant, so much so that it has been picked to the point of disappearing. Please, if not for your friend Ol’ Wally here but also for the  hummingbirds, admire it with photos.

W is for Water


Hello, folks! Ol’ Wally stepping in here for Nutmeg. I couldn’t let her use anything but water for today’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge. First, because it’s Thursday, and our regular readers know this is the day this old squirrel runs the Thirsty Thursday column featuring water. And second, we’ve had so much rain in these parts that it’s getting a bit hard to ignore.

‘Suppose you humans know how important water is. I mean, your lives depend on it. So do ours, but we wildlife aren’t in as good a position to keep that water source clean, or even there. We are relying on you all.

That means good planning when you put in your buildings…

to where that water goes from your parking lots…

to putting in places where the smaller critters might have a damp home…

to bigger solutions for water cleaning and recycling for entire buildings…

to simply putting out water when it isn’t raining, like in the heat of summer…

or the frozen winter.

It’s not from a squirrel, but let me leave you with this wise Native American proverb:

The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.

Thirsty Thursday & Bees like tubular flowers!

Nutmeg wrote all about composite flowers yesterday, but Ol’ Wally is here to tell you bees also like tubular flowers. Why? They have more nectar collecting down at the bottom of that tube. So it can be just as efficient to visit one good tube flower–like a Pink Turtlehead!Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Now, that’s the only way to see a bee disappear. And please note, Ol’ Wally is showing you humans a tubular flower that is also a water-loving plant. Pink Turtlehead is a wonderful wildflower if you’ve got a bit of a damp area around your property.

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.

Yellow Water Iris

All this rain we’ve had has the streams running high here in northern Virginia and the ponds full. This old squirrel has stayed clear of them for fear of being washed away. Same for the roads–but because you humans can’t see a gray squirrel when it’s raining. Besides, who wants wet fur?

The rain has been good for the plants. Our suburban neighborhood is fully green and it seems we’ve moved to the early summer flowers. Because it’s Thursday, we can enjoy pond flowers today!

pond edge with Yellow Water Iris

Unfortunately, not native ones.

Yellow Water Iris

Yellow Water Iris has naturalized in North America, but is an invasive plant that some feel is becoming a little too common. Humans like it, plant it and any bit of broken roots spread the plant. We read a good suggestion: only plant this iris in closed garden ponds, not streams, canals or open waterways where the plant roots and seeds can be carried downstream and spread.

N is for Nice Habitat on Thirsty Thursday

This old squirrel is struggling to match a ‘N’ Blogging A to Z Challenge post with his regular Thirsty Thursday column. Ol’ Wally here has searched around, but he doesn’t seem to have ever seen a newt at our backyard ponds, just a Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal at backyard pond

Maybe one thirsty bird does fit, after all, that’s the point of writing about water. And, heh, I see I’m not the first to see it happen.

Cardinal sundial birdbath

But after a little thought I decided our gardening readers might be a little more inspired by seeing what a few years in a sunny spot will do for your water-loving plants.

frog pond

Nice, huh? And if you clever human readers have any suggestions of other ‘N’ related water items, shoot me a  message.

Thirsty Thursday

Well folks, we’ve had a fair amount of rain this year in northern Virginia. The drainage ditches seem to have fresh trickles, good for a quick sip.

drainage ditch on Reston National Golf Course

Enough rain has fallen even the grass has stayed green. Not only on our nearby golf course where the humans water, but also where they don’t, like the shrub patches.

Shrub patch on Reston National Golf Course

See that orange peeking out?


Jewelweed. That water-lover is still blooming in September! That’s how you know we’ve had enough rain!


Thirsty Thursday

Wouldn’t be summer if this old squirrel didn’t show off the most striking flower around our natural ponds, and backyard ponds.

Cardinal Flower

Here in the east, that’s Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinals. See how this flower makes a trumpet? Smaller than the ones Hickory showed Sunday, but still a trumpet!

Cardinal Flower


The hummingbirds really love ’em, and they need all the fuel they can get to make their migration flights, just weeks from now. Yep, folks, we’re heading’ into fall!

Thirsty Thursday


Beautiful water plant, isn’t it? But Pickeralweed, Pontederia cordata, also works hard in our suburban waters to filter out nitrogen, nitrates and other minerals. If these were left in the water, more algae would grow. That makes it what humans call a biological filter, and they like to plant it in their ponds that collect runoff water. It was one of the aquatic plants growing on that floating raft we showed you a few weeks ago.

This native plant of eastern North America, grows fast and in water a squirrel could wade in, to depths the geese like for poking about for food. You won’t see this old squirrel wading in for a bite, but ducks, geese and aquatic animals like muskrats like to eat the various parts of Pickeralweed.