One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this flower?

Give us a guess in the comments. I’ll be back later to check your guesses.

~~~

This stunning wildflower is Ironweed, named for its tough stem. It’s also pretty hard to dig up the roots and in some places you humans are finding it more on the weedy side of wildflowers–native, but taking over.

Since Vernonia noveboracensis is a member of the aster family, and has all those tiny flowers that put out gobs of seeds, who would expect anything else?

Miz Flora is pleased with the bright color, and Ironweed loves a wet area, so that might help out in a few awkward garden spots. Keep in mind, it’s almost as tall–7 feet–as a Joe Pye Weed, so don’t put it in front of anything small!

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One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Know what this plant is? The butterflies seem to like it.

I’ll check back later for your answers in the comments!

~~~

Maybe this view of the bush in it’s habitat will give an additional hint?

If you’ve guessed that this is a wetland, you’re correct. Like a willow, this bush with the ball-shaped flowers likes its roots wet. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is found in freshwater marshes, swamps and along floodplains in eastern and southern North America. It’s a favorite mid-summer nectar source for butterflies because, like composites, there are many small flowers grouped together. That makes for an easy food stop!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

This fellow wildlife is a bit out of place on a lawn, but do you recognize it?

Maybe you know what this mystery animal is, but do you know if it’s male or female? I’ll check your comments later!

~~~

We had a guess from a regular follower that this was a toad. It isn’t a toad, and usually the way to tell a toad is that they have bumpy skin. Well, a second look here and maybe we have to retract that. This frog is covered in bumps. But they are the little ones and toads are bumpy with a more ‘warty’ look.

This frog is a Northern Green Frog…and it’s a girl! Notice that circle behind her eye? It’s the frog’s eardrum, more properly called a tympanum. The female green frogs have a tympanum smaller than their eye, and in the males it’s bigger.

Here’s Dr. Matthew G. Bolek’s website page of frogs for a great comparison of many different kinds of North American frogs.

This frog found her way into a local yard and somehow ended up in a trashcan of rainwater. We hope she made it back to a pond!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this flower?

I’ll checkin later for your answers!

~~~

This showy flower is Liatris, also known as Gayflower and Blazing Star. It’s a native wildflower to North America that has been tinkered with a bit by humans to take on many different heights.

Those little frilly petals are many small flowers clustered to gather–this is a Composite flower, like the coneflowers we featured recently. And the bees love it, for one-stop nectar feeding.

It seemed to us that this little stand in our neighborhood appeared from nowhere, but we’ve read they can be planted by corms, which are stem parts. More on their care in the garden can be found in The Spruce Website’s Liatris Flowers, Prairie Favorites article.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

What might this object be?

Give me your guesses in the comments and I’ll be checking back later!

~~~

We squirrels suppose this is a very obscure thing, unless you are leaping over the ground and looking for…food!

However, sadly this won’t become food–it’s a Black Walnut that got knocked from its branch. It wasn’t even close to ripening, but it still has the ‘black walnut’ smell so Nutmeg and I easily sniffed it out while foraging under the trees.

By the end of the summer we should be seeing the nuts filling out in their husks.

Then in the autumn–kerplop!

Don’t want to be under the walnut trees then!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

I had this mystery waiting for you, despite what Nutmeg thought yesterday!

Know what it is? Give your guess in the comments!

~~~

As one of our regular readers noted in the comments today, this is an oak gall, sometimes called an oak apple gall. We had no idea that humans in the middle ages made ink out of them! Humans used to make many things out of plants, and we squirrels feel it would be helpful to the earth if they returned to that habit!

Galls are formed by insects invading plan tissue, either to feed or lay eggs. The plant then begins to grow abnormally in that spot. In the case of the oaks, a wasp has laid an egg in the bud of a leaf. Split the gall open early enough and you should find the larvae of the wasp in the center. It’s interesting that different wasps in both Europe and North America lay eggs in oak trees on both continents and cause oak galls.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this LBJ? That’s shorthand for Little Brown Job, a term we squirrels finally figured out that you humans use to call birds you cannot recognize.

Give your guesses in the comments and I’ll check back later!

~~~

No guesses, but this is a tough little nut to crack!  Several woodland birds in our area have this brown back and speckled breast, so here’s another image of its back.

It has a uniform brown on the back and wings as well as the tail, which is a good identifier  along with the bit of white at the eye that this is a Swainson’s thrush. A similar thrush in size and coloring is the Hermit thrush, but he has a reddish tail, as seen here:

With this coloring, these thrushes hide very well, despite mainly feeding on the ground where they eat earthworms, snails and insects. We know that many humans find and identify them by song–and we squirrels have to agree that the Hermit thrush wins the singing contest!

Eleven different types of thrushes are found in Virginia, including two you probably know mush better: the American Robin and bluebirds! Want to see more thrushes in your yard? Here’s a great article by The Spruce on How to Attract Thrushes to Your Yard.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a little plant coming up around the neighborhood.

It’s so plain I’m showing close-ups of the leaves and stem as well.

Give me a guess in the comments and I’ll check back for your answers.

~~~

No guesses today? This is a fairly common native plant that most of you humans probably recognize after it’s all grown up–and got it’s roots–or should we say taproot!–in your garden!

Any guesses now?

It’s Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana, sprout in spring, monster by summer, sometimes growing to 8 feet tall. And it will return year after year because it’s almost impossible to get that taproot out after it’s grown for a season.

And don’t forget the possibility of reseeding–lots of berries in the fall, that are actually poisonous. They are eaten by a few birds–catbird, cardinal, mockingbird–but for the rest of us, these berries are a no-no.

 Some humans advocate removing pokeweed from populated areas like our suburban yards. If you look for the smooth-edged leaves and red stems, it’s easy to spot pokeweed and remove the entire root when the plants are small.

Yep, when it’s small.

No Mystery Today!

Hey, sorry, I know! But here’s a poison ivy and a Virginia creeper for you to ponder the difference between.

Both vines, both native. Remember, leaves of three let it be!

If you need more practice, here’s a link to our poison ivy-Virginia creeper quiz. Get the answers by clicking on the next post at the bottom of that page…back then we put our answers in separate posts–*facepaw*. You can also search those individual posts in the search box to learn more about each plant.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

While you were out hiking yesterday, did you come across anything as common as these?

By chance do you know the specific type? (I know, all those little flowers look alike, but Miz Flora would be pleased if anyone knows!)

Check in for your answers later!

~~~

Two of our readers agreed these are violets. Yay! Though they’re are thirty-some species of violets in the Eastern U. S., Miz Flora was hoping someone might figure out that they are Canada Violets.

 It is near-to-impossible from photos. Canada violet has white petals with a yellow throat, and the backs of the petals are tinged with violet. Only three of the local violets are white or cream-colored, and none of the others have purple backs. You might check your white violets, but Miz Flora recommends you check more than one blossom and perhaps several times as they are blooming.