One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Seeing any white flashes in the distance?

Could it be a common flicker? A white-tailed deer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

We’ll be back later to check your answers!

~~~

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One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize these?

Give us a guess in the comments, and we’ll be back to confirm!

~~~

These leaves are similar to maple leaves, but clearly maples don’t have berries. This is often called wild grape, a vine that tends to grow up trees, or grow up with trees, and flourishing their canopies. This vine is on a pine tree.

While we squirrels may appreciate the handy way the vine brings the grape fruits up to us, a vine growing a tree isn’t always good for the tree. It can overshadow the tree’s leaves and the extra weight is hard for a tree to support. Because of this, grape vines are often considered invasive, even though this is a native plant.

Now for a confession: We squirrels thought this was a native wild grape. But after consulting with Ms. Flora, we have learned it isn’t. Those pretty blue berries are the give away. They aren’t unripe grape fruits; that is what the fruits look like on a grape look-alike. (And we were caught by it, too!) This is a species native to China, Japan and other Asian countries known as Porcelain Berry, Amur Peppervine or sometimes just creeper. Ampelopsis glandulosa actually is invasive and we recommend that you do not eat them!

 

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Do you recognize this plant in full fall bloom?

Hint: It’s now four feet tall after its summer’s growth.

Give us a guess in the comments!

~~~

We had a correct guess today–this is Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis.

It is the wild relative of the garden annual plant Impatients that you humans buy for your shady yards. But guess what? The wild jewelweed seeds prolifically enough that it should come back every year–if your ground is moist and the light is set-shady.

The beautiful orange flowers are visited by many insects, and while nUtmeg and I were out, a pair of hummingbirds!

As our commenter mentioned, jewelweed has many uses. The Native Americans knew that crushing the leaves and stems and applying the juice would relive the itch of poison ivy and nettles, which happens to be found in moist areas as well, so should be handy. The sap also can be used as an anti-fungal.

Please note that we are squirrels and this folklore is not intended to be medical advice!

Check out more about Jewelweed on the US Forest Service page.

 

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

This guy has a perfect target on his ‘bee-hind’. But do you know what this insect is? Or the flower, if you prefer!

Give us a guess in the comments!

~~~

This was a tricky one for us to identify.

Black and white wasps aren’t too common, but we had to have some help from a friend’s photo–thanks, Martha–to verify we were seeing all we needed to see.

Yes, this wasp has a very skinny middle. and all of the white markings add up to it being a Fraternal Potter Wasp. This is a type of mason wasp that, as you probably guessed, used mud to make its nesting sites. In this case, a little ‘pot’. We squirrels haven’t seen one of these, so if you have, we’d be ever so grateful to see a photo to share!

Another tricky part of the identification is that potter wasps can be black or brown and have white, yellow or orange markings.

Potter wasps are apparently predators, and collect beetle larvae, caterpillars or spiders that they paralyze and seal in the mud brood chamber with their eggs so the young wasps may feed on them. SO can someone explain to us why these wasps were fervently feeding on these flowers?

This late summer plant is well-named: It’s late-flowering boneset

Eupatorium serotinum, a giant of a plant at 7 feet high and 7 feet wide!

It is massive and covered with dozens of different types of insects, wasps, bees and butterflies. We’ll show you more soon!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Maybe you’re good at identifying these little fliers. We aren’t, so we admit we had some help…

If you want to place a guess, put your answer in our comments, and we’ll check back later with the correct answer.

~~~

At only about an inch long, skippers are tough to identify. If you get them sitting still and can magnify… See the dots on the wings? The Fiery Skippers have those. The males are orange with black spots and the females are browner, and have orange checks. Here’s another of the… (make a guess now!)

male. They frequent sunny, open areas and like to sip the nectar of swamp milkweed, knapweed, sneezeweed, asters and thistles. Their caterpillars–which are a greenish pink with a black head–eat leaves, and then when they want to rest, will roll the leaves and tie them closed so they can lay horizontally on the ground.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

If you came home and found your gardening this state, what would you think had happened?

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

~~~

You don’t suppose…

No. We have been found out! A reader made a correct guess–this, um, accident isn’t because a goldfinch landed on the top of a sunflower. It was, er…us.

 

Yes, we squirrels like sunflower seeds, too. They are a great source of protein and we just can’t seem to help ourselves!

Sorry to make you humans angry! Ms. Flora says to say they are a pretty flower!

 

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Nutmeg and I have been lurking over at one of those nature identification sites. We don’t know everything, but we like to look stuff up. Here’s a butterfly that was giving folks a hard time. Do you know what it is? Or even what it isn’t?

What it isn’t in nature is always a good start for identification!

We’ll check your ‘it’s nots’ in the comments and be back later with an identification!
~~~

This butterfly seems totally misnamed! It’s the Red-spotted Purple, a woodland butterfly that is trying to mimic the Pipevine swallowtail. It does that on he underside, which we unfortunately didn’t catch a photo of. But this entomology site at the University of Florida has a good shot, as does Butterflies and Moths of North America.

We don’t have photos of all the black butterflies our area, but here are a few. The Red-spotted Purple definitely isn’t a swallowtail–and there are several different dark swallowtails in our area of the Mid-Atlantic for it to mingle with.

The dark form of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

The Black Swallowtail, with has orange spots with black dots in the center on the inside edge of the hind wing.

And the Spicebush Swallowtail, with blue crescents along the outside edge of the hind wing.

Be on the lookout for these differences–you may be seeing more different kinds of butterflies than you realize!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

The heat isn’t keeping these guys down!

Do you recognize this one?

Post your guesses in the comments, and we’ll check back later.

~~~

Hot days, and we squirrels are admitting the butterflies have us beat! They continue to keep up their strength by visiting the flowers you humans have planted in our neighborhood. Good for you in helping the insects this year!

Another clue photo, as we’ve mostly seen this butterfly with its wings spread while landing.

He’s had to share on this coneflower! This Silvery Checkerspot is a member of the skipper family and looks very similar to the Pearl Crescent. You need a good look at the hind wing to see the silvery marks along the outer edge.

Another way to help butterflies is by wetting bare ground to make pudding spots so they can collect the minerals and moisture they need. Maybe you can do double-duty by watering a tree. Even they are suffering in this heat.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize these leaves?

Hint: The plant is blooming nw, but we bet you’d recognize it!

Give us a guess in the comments.

~~~

Another hint: This is the plant in bloom.

It’s a shrub native to the southeast of North America, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia. A lot of humans seem to be planting them for their nice flowers and pretty fall leaf color. In the wild, the shrub grows in the understory, but does best in light shade to full sun.

Make sure it has forest-like rich soil and steady moisture. We squirrels haven’t seen insects or birds attracted to the Oakleaf Hydrangea, nor can we find any references to it being attractive to wildlife. Any real life stories out there?

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this fella? If you do, give us a guess in the comments. I’ll check the guesses and post the correct answer later!

~~~

No guesses today? Here’s another hint:

If that didn’t give it away, maybe this will:

It’s a young Eastern Bluebird. Members of the thrush family–which also includes the American Robin–have spots to help them hide when they are young.