One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Any idea why this looks like a centipede fossil in this piece of not-fossilized wood?

I’ll be back later to check your guesses!

~~~

The simple answer is bugs.

The long answer is that the long bumpy center–or body of the centipede–is where a beetle laid eggs back when this branch was alive and had bark. Each of the eggs hatched into a larvae, and each little bug began chewing its way into the softer cambium layer under the wood, and we suppose a little into the wood, making the ‘legs’ of the centipede.

Did you notice that those legs grow larger as the bug chewed along? It was growing bigger! Eventually they matured enough that the larvae chewed a hole to the outside of the bark, metamorphosed into a beetle and left!

So this is like a natural apartment house!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

If you have a weak stomach, don’t look… because today’s mystery is scat. In other words, poop. (Nutmeg is making me post this warning!)

So you humans may not think that makes it much of a mystery, but it is! Two mystery questions, in fact:

Can you guess what animal left this in our neighborhood parking lot?

And what did he eat? (Hint: It’s out now!)

I’ll check back with you later!

~~~

We believe a fox left this little deposit, and from the looks of it, he ate fruit. What’s ripe now?

Mulberries!

They are ripening and dropping less that fifty feet from where the very full fox left his mark!

 

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Any idea what these things on the leaves are?

Check back with you later!

~~~

Guess we should have clarified that these things are not ‘on’ the leaves but are growing out of them. That’s what happens when something gets into the leaf tissue and the leaf doesn’t like it. This might be an insect laying an egg or a fungus spore getting into a wound. The tree cells rally and create a ‘gall’ around the invader. Different plants create different galls, the most famous and noticeable being the Oak Apple Gall. (Squirrel kits have to learn that those are not  food, since they grow where we expect acorns!)

We had to write back to our reader to learn what kind of a tree this was…by the way, thank you to Jeanine for allowing us to use her photos for today’s mystery!

The tree looks like a type of wild cherry, but we’re not sure which.

So with that information, we were able to narrow our search and came up with spindle galls. Viette’s Views gardening blog has an excellent photo essay on galls which includes notes on spindle galls, caused by microscopic mites called eriophyid mites.

Ok, that sound like a bug you can’t stop, and the tree is dealing with it the best it can!

One of Nature’s Mysteries To Solve

Hey there!

This little guy interrupted my nap…and I remembered it’s mystery day!

What is he?

Check back with you later!

~~~

This little Spring Azure butterfly–about a half inch across–can vary in it’s gray to whitish coloring, but the underwings are usually gray with darker markings. They might have marks along the edges or not. The females are the same coloring on top, but the males are a bright blue. If they are sitting–which is even hard to catch them doing!–the wings are up, so the blue or gray upper wings are mostly seen in flight–and they are quick!

We’ve noticed the Spring Azures flying in our neighborhood for years, but only looked them up this year. The adults like the nectar of Dogbane, which we have nearby, and the caterpillars feed on the leaves of spirea…which we also have! So we squirrels will be checking for eaten leaves this summer and reporting back!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

You see a flash of red in the woods…

It’s a…?

I’ll check back later with your answer!

~~~

Need to have a better look?

We heard a knocking the woods and spotted this Pileated Woodpecker down low! That’s pretty rare, but he had found a dead limb that had fallen and was working his way up it.

While Nutmeg and I held still, he got to the hole in the branch and just stayed there, pecking away at it, making it larger and sucking down some insect with his tongue.

He must have heard more chewing away in there, because we got bored and left before he did!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Beautiful mystery, aren’t they? We grabbed these photos before the Hawthorn tree leafed out so the thorns stood out.

Also called the thornapple, hawberry and May-tree, because of course it blooms in May–right now!

The bees are abuzz over it, fighting many other insects for the pleasure. We squirrels will stand clear until fall–then we can’t resist the little ‘pomes,’ the fruit, the hawthorn grows–and then we will be fighting the cardinals and cedar waxwings!

Humans have long noticed this tree, of which some species stay shrubby. The blossoms are thought to bring fortune, and for the Greeks, hope. They carried flowering branches in their wedding precessions. But our wildly variable weather here in Virginia this year makes this Scottish saying true: “Ne’er cast a cloot til Mey’s oot.” Never shed your clothes before the May flowers (Hawthorn!) have bloomed.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

This plant has a symmetry thing going on. (The closer one, not the one in the background–the mystery from a week ago!) Any idea what it is?

I’ll check back for your answers later.

~~~

This five-leaved plant is a new tree–a Willow Oak. This one has just sprouted after we squirrels planted one of a neighboring tree’s acorns. Later, the leaves won’t be radiation out from one point, but will look like this.

Here’s a new Willow oak…

and here’s a mature one in our neighborhood.

We’re happy to see you humans planting them.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Have you seen this growing about?

Let us know in the comments, and I’ll return later with your answer!

~~~

As one of our regular readers said, the important thing to know about this plant is you can never get rid of it! So true.

Creeping Charlie, or what Miz Flora’s wildflower guide calls Gill-Over-The Ground, Glechoma hederacea, is a member of the Mint Family. (Bet you can see the square stem!) Rather than standing upright, it creeps, putting down new roots where the nodes touch moist ground.

The blue or violet flowers bloom in spring and early summer, and because it’s a common plant, they feed bees while the other plants are getting going. The blossoms are quite small–meaning we had a really touch time getting a close photo.

But we are sure you can find one in your lawn to check them out!