The sweet scent of spring

Smell something sweet as you’re walking in the woods?

In our neighborhood, it’s the American Holly blooming.


And by the way, don’t trim those lower branches! An American Holly has a lovely natural shape! The ‘skirt’ provides its own ground cover–no mulch needed!


Had any luck guessing our mystery? These pieces are the outer fruit portion of the American Holly berry.

American Holly berries

It appears some birds prefer only the seed in the center and have picked off the outside. I’m not sure if it tastes bad; squirrels aren’t fans of holly berries. We leave them to the Bluebirds and woodpeckers.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

This week’s mystery is pretty simple—these tiny flowers. What did they fall from?

Mystery # 58

Back later with your guesses!


These are the flowers of the American Holly, Ilex opaca.

American Holly flowers

I bet most of you think of Holly and berries, not Holly and flowers…but those berries have got to start somewhere!  This is another plant with male and female plans, and therefore flowers—and only the female ones produce the berries.

Which do you think these are?

staminate flowers of American Holly

The male ones have four stamens sticking up from the petal center, the females has a style—flower term for the ‘ovary’ part of the flower that produces the seeds.

H is for Holly

The American Holly is an evergreen, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get new leaves.

H is for Holly

Aren’t they a pretty green for spring?

This photo doesn’t have the same brightness, but it’s kind of unusual. One yard in our neighborhood has six very old holly trees planted very close together.

Holly trunks



It’s a neat look, but one you have to wait 30-40 years for. (We’re not sure of their age, just they are big!)

Non-Spring Event

What would be a Non-Spring Event? We woke to snow yesterday.

late winter snow

Of course, Spring officially begins on the vernal equinox, at 7:02 A.M. (EDT – which is what we have here in Virginia) on March 20th.  That’s tomorrow! So I guess it would be better to say this was a Late Winter Event.

squirrel plowing

Regardless, I don’t want to plow through snow anymore for my breakfast!

American Holly

American Holly

American Holly, Ilex opaca, stands out as a beautiful understory tree here in Virginia.

Bark of American Holly

Unfortunately, it’s not a very hardy one. The smooth bark is thin. It damages easily and doesn’t survive fire well.

damaged American Holly trunk

If you are working around the base of your holly, be careful!


In other news, our Colorado reader friend Coney, who became a field correspondent in the fall, became very excited when he saw our Eastern Hemlock tree photos on Wednesday. He wrote:

That’s a lot of cones on those Hemlocks you have. That’s a new tree for me, but I would really be up for trying to get to the cones, just to get a taste, you know.

He would like to do another week of Colorado posts with us. I told him sure, Virginia isn’t having much of a winter, so we’d like to see what  another part of the country’s squirrels do in winter. He’ll be with us starting Sunday. In the meantime, you can read here, how he became a correspondent with us.