One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

What is this blooming shrub?

Yes, a spring bloomer!

I’ll check in for your answers later!


We had a correct guess today: this is Itea virginica, or Virginia sweetspire, also sometimes known as ‘tassel-white’ which seems very appropriate!

The one in our original photo isn’t blooming just yet, likely because it’s in a shady spot. But you can see these delicate branches are hosting a good number of spires.

Itea will do fine in partial shade, but it really takes off in a sunny location.

The hanging flowers bloom from the top down for a long-lasting spring bloom, and later form tiny seeds in pods that are opened in the winter by songbirds.

Miz Flora asked me to remind out gardening readers that Virginia sweet spire isn’t just a nursery plant. It does grow wild in Virginia and the east, most commonly in damp areas or along water. But it should do fine in your garden as well, because it’s very hardy. The loosely formed mounds are great for squirrels, chipmunks and birds to hide in. Here’s a bit more information that she liked from the Piedmont Master Gardeners, because not every plant is perfect in every location. Virginia sweetspire might like your garden a bit too much!


V is for Viburnum

Another difficult letter in nature.


Yes, it’s a good ol’ standby for V day. We believe this one is Doublefile Viburnum, Viburnum plicatum. Those flowers are lovely, aren’t they?

Well, you humans might think that, but a bee won’t. Have a closer look…

This outer ring of ‘flowers’ don’t produce nectar or pollen. The inner ones will, and then tasty little drupe fruits will form in the fall. This isn’t a native shrub to North America, but it’s one wildlife appreciates in the suburban landscape!

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.