May-apples…Hawthorn

What do you know–some common names are correct! The Hawthorn is living up to one of its–May-apple–with the ‘pome’ fruits beginning to ripen now, in May.

We took a look at this small tree’s other names, and we squirrels feel they are just as descriptive of some hawthorn characteristics:

Whitethorn = the blossoms are white, the branches are covered in thorns, as seen in this post.

Thornapple = again, the thorns and the ‘apple’ fruits.

Hawberry = those do look like berries, though scientifically they aren’t. Haw is an old English name for hedge, which these trees would make a mighty fine one of, in our humble opinion, but we understand that this is what people call the fruits over there.

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Thirsty Thursday

Folks,

This week’s water column isn’t about water per se, but about what water does.

We’ve had a lot of rain in northern Virginia the last few days. A LOT, what Miz Flora calls ‘That blasted weather’. She’s particularly miffed because the rain has brought down flowers–from trees. Notice those white patches along the roadsides?

If your nose hasn’t been tuned upward, there’s been a fragrance in the air–the sweet Black Locust blossoms.

Yes, we know that phrase is usually refers to magnolias, but trust me, black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, is sweet, or so we consider it, and it’s a favorite of the honeybees.

That’s what makes us squirrels particularly sad–huge numbers of bees collect from black locust during the week they’re blooming. These pea-shaped flowers hang in bunches, called racemes Miz Flora says, and they make for easy nectar-gathering.

Unfortunately, they’re also heavy, so after Monday’s storm, most of the flowers and many branches ended up on the ground, even though this strong wood has traditionally been used for fence posts.

Sigh. If you’re a friend of bees, you might want to slip them some extra food during our predicted week of rain. Good timing if you managed to get your planting done last week though! I see plenty of oaks sprouting from acorns we buried last fall.

Catkins Coming Down!

If you’re dodging these masses of catkins rolling across your suburban streets, you know how we squirrels feel trying to to navigate the woods. We’re up to our bellies in oak catkins! Last week the male ‘flowers’ of the oak trees shed their pollen, coating our tree branches yellow, and this week the spent tassels have come down.

It’s all part of nature, folks. These fine plant materials contain no seeds and make great additions to your compost. Personally, we squirrels are hoping for a good acorn crop form their pollination!

B is for Blossoms

We know you humans are enjoying the spring blossoms, but one of our first spring bloomers in up in the air…

Have you noticed a blush of red in the trees? Red maple trees are a prolific bloomer–providing bees with much needed pollen to feed their young bees and revive the worker numbers.

And for our regular readers expecting a ‘Motionless Monday’ post today–this is the best bloomer we’ve found!

 

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Something edible–for wildlife only!–is ripening now.

If you have a guess of what it is, please post in the comments. I’ll check back later!

~~~

Maybe another hint?

The fruits of the Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, are ripening now and their flesh being picked at by the birds: Cardinals, titmice, bluebirds, and the juncos–when they arrive.

They won’t last long, even if they aren’t very tasty! We squirrels find that birds are’t that picky.

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.

Z is for Zebra Swallowtail

Beautiful, isn’t it? We feature this beautiful member of the swallowtail butterfly group each year because in a week of hard-to-find nature letters, it’s a staple. But it’s also harder to find this butterfly. Its caterpillars eat only one food, the leaves of the Common Paw Paw, Asimina triloba.

This understory tree lives with its roots in wet soil, along streams and rivers.

At least those leaves are huge–10 to 12 inches long and 4-6 inches wide at the middle.

The dark red flowers bloom in the spring and turn into a fruit lumpy with large seeds in the fall. Maybe you can find a tree with caterpillars feeding on it this year.

We’ve had a great time posting this year’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge! Thanks to our many readers for joining us for a look at nature in suburbia. We hope it helps you to enjoy nature around your home!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

Staying seasonal with our mystery, what are these red leaves?

Mystery # 170

Or if you want a challenge, what are the green ones?

I’ll check back later for your guesses!

~~~

This beautiful fall color brought to you by Red Maple, Acer rubric, and Metasequoia, Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Enjoy!