One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Nutmeg and I are signing off this coming week for our winter hiatus, so here is a last mystery for a bit.

Mystery #174

This plant has held its leaves late in the season.

If you know what it is, give us a guess in the comments.

I’ll check back later!

~~~

Arrowwood Viburnum

Spectacular leaves, aren’t they?

Arrowwood Viburnum native shrub

Arrowwood Viburnum, Viburnum dentatum, is a native shrub that produces food for wildlife, too. The drupes grow from clusters of white flowers that bloom in the spring and look like look like dark blue berries when they ripen. A variety of viburnums live from Maine down to Florida and east to Texas, and feed many types of birds, including thrushes, bluebirds, robins, catbirds, cardinals, finches and waxwings.

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.

P is for Pinkster Azalea

 

Pinkster Azalea shrubNo, human readers, all azaleas are not ornamentals. And we daresay the native Pinkster Azalea, Rhododendron periclymenoides, is the most beautiful azalea around. It’s a deciduous shrub that lives at the woods’ edge and has the most stunning pink flowers Miz Flora has ever laid eyes on.

Pinkster Azalea flower

Pinkster azalea flower stamens

K is for Kalmia latifolia

Not many people go around calling it that, but frankly, we were hard-pressed to find something for the letter K…besides squirrel kits, which are terribly cute, but if you look back through our years of participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge, you’ll see we’ve used that–several times.

Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia is the latin species name for Mountain Laurel, a lovely evergreen shrub native to the eastern United States. It prefers a damper, shady habitat, which is where most people put azaleas. Go native instead!

Mountain Laurel flowers

Mountain Laurel should be blooming in another month, in early May for us in Virginia.

And we’ve been remiss in not mentioning it’s Squirrel Week! Hosted by John Kelly, columnist with the Washington Post, this is human event is a great look at us squirrels, and sometimes our interactions with you humans. The April 9th article on dreys is especially good for those of you with questions about how we build our leaf nests.

H is for Hydrangea Leaves

Oak Leaf HydrangeaYou may not recognize these because they’re the leaves of the Oakleaf Hydrangea just as they were coming out a few weeks ago. They had a beautiful silver tinge to their fuzzy edges. It’s fun to see things differently at different times of the year.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

We’re back with your mystery answer: This shrub is a Winterberry.

Winterberry Shrub

Ms. Flora can’t say for sure which winterberry this is, because, as she says, “the humans have changed it all around.” But it’s a part of that family.Many humans plant it because they like the look of the berries, but it also grows in shade! But better than others that grow in shade, like azaleas, this shrub has berries that we can eat.

Winterberry Berries

We squirrels find the skinny branches hard to climb, but it’s a favorite of mice and chipmunks manage nicely, too. The real beneficiaries are birds–more than 48 different kinds will eat winterberry berries.

One Of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a flower we wonder if you recognize!

Mystery #122

Let us have your guesses in the comments!

~~~

Hey, this might be a little harder. This part I showed above is probably overlooked by you humans, but Ms. Flora assures me the little starburst structures are the real flowers of this plant. How about a photo hint? 

Bracts on Oak Leaf Hydrangea

Recognize these ‘flower’ sepals, as Ms. Flora calls them? And backing up farther…

Oak Leaf Hydrangea flowers

Look familiar? How about the leaves?

Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, is a native shrub we’ve shown before because the humans in our neighborhood have planted it. People seem to like it because of the long blooming period. That sets Ms. Flora to laughing. The ‘flowers’, which you now know are the smaller, delicate parts inside the flower head, finish their blooming in short order. You can even see the white dusting of the petals on the leaves below. The stiffer sepals, which are more like a leaf structure, stick around a very long time.

Oak Leaf Hydrangea shrub

If that what it takes to get a native shrub planted, we’ll keep the secret to ourselves. 🙂

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey,

Some beautiful flowers are blooming that you might see as you drive by…

Mystery #119

Any idea what they are?

Check back with you later!

~~~

Well, we chased out tails today looking at plants and frankly forgot to come back to post the answer. *flattens ears* Sorry.

This stately bush is a Mountain Laurel, Kalmia latifolia. At least around northern Virginia it’s a shrub. Down in South Carolina, the Mountain Laurel grows to the size of a small tree. But however large it grows, the blossoms are lovely.

Mountain Laurel Flowers

And very full on the mature plants.

Mountain Laurel flowers

This native shrub likes it cool and green and shady, so you’ll most often find it on north-facing sloes or hillsides near creeks and rivers. The leaves are evergreen and the shape of a rhododendron leaf, but the plant is a member of the heather family.

Mountain Laurel leaves

Most parts of the plant are poisonous, so do be careful! Mountain Laurel is fairly wide-spread along the eastern U.S., so is the state flower of both Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Lowbush Blueberry

berriesLowbush Blueberry

These wild blueberry bushes don’t seem as widespread as they used to be. We ran by a big patch a few weeks ago and spied the flowers.

Lowbush Blueberry Flowers

Hickory thinks it’s time for another trip across the golf course to check, but I say we’ve got a few weeks to go until the berries are ripe. Ms. Flora agrees, but we can’t seem to quiet him. Guess you know what I’ll be doing today. *chitters*