R is for Redbud

Blooming in lines of pink across branches that Ms. Flora will not allow the rest of us squirrels to cross, Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is one of the most stunning of blooming trees. Or so says Ms. Flora, and she insisted we tell you that.

 

Where we live in suburban Washington, D. C., the redbud is blooming now, following the cherry trees, which followed the red maple trees–a continuous bloom for the honey bees and native bees in our area.

This small tree tolerates some shade at the edges of woods, growing to 30 feet high and just as wide. It really does sprout blossoms along the branches and trunk, and the seedpods can follow. If polinated!

Grab some of those seeds and try to plant one. They seem to readily sprout.

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Purchase plants and seeds from a known source that does not use pesticides / insecticides, particularly neonicotinoids. They are not safe for honeybees and native bees. Watch this bee researcher’s Ted Talk to learn more about bees, why they are dying and how you can help:

Marla Spivak: Why Bees Are Disappearing

 

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One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this butterfly? Top side…

Bottom side…

Give us a guess in the comments–I’ll be checking back later for your answers!

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See the little white mark on the underside of the wing? The ‘comma’? This is a comma butterfly, which should certainly not be confused with this butterfly:

The question mark butterfly! Okay, honestly they look very similar, from the bottom and the top…

The undersides of both are described as being brown mottled, but the question mark we saw seems to be unusually orange. The photos we saw on Butterflies and Moths of North America vary, too, and the mottling is there.

Hope you enjoyed your nature punctuation lesson for today!

Still safe to visit the flowers!

After Ol’ Wally’s dramatic tale from yesterday, I decided the blog needed an uplifting moment–and butterflies seem to still fit that idea. No spicebush swallowtails or monarchs died during the time Hickory and I visited these flowers!

But we did find one juvenile hiding!

“As he well should!” Hickory chittered. “Birds. If you can’t trust them to stay out of your sunflower seeds, then when can you trust them?”

Thirsty Thursday

Folks,

I headed over to the big pond today, accompanied by Miz Flora. Because of that dear, plant-loving squirrel’s presence, her–I mean, our–attention was drawn to the purple flowers of the Pickerel Weed, Pontederia cordata. Now this common pond plant has been blooming all summer, with its stalks of tiny purple flowers, and I…*ahem*…must admit, Ol’ Wally here was not inclined to include it in our weekly posts about water in nature.

Miz Flora had other ideas.

And so we leaped over to see the pickerel weed up close.

Several little skippers were fluttering over the flowers, dipping in to gather the nectar of the many flowers. Well, that is nice, I thought, something Nutmeg would certainly like for the blog. I followed along behind Miz Flora, admiring the flowers as she chattered. Then, before our eyes–WHAM!

A praying mantis darted from the stalk and grabbed a skipper. The poor thing had no chance to escape the wicked barbs of its front feet and was devoured within a minute. The body, at least, not the wings, which the mantis let flutter into the water…

I had no idea viewing flowers could be so dramatic, and said so.

“That’s nothing,” Mis Flora said with a dismissive flick of her tail. “Not for nature.”

This old squirrel will be retiring to his drey for a rest and reflection on how lucky he has been to survive all these years.

Little Butterflies

Hickory and I saw a little movement in the plants, and really doubted that it was anything but the wind. Then, there it was again.

Have you humans ever tried to get a good look at these tiny butterflies?They’re about the size of my paw and hardly sit still. That’s a zinnia leaf it’s on, to give you an idea. Luckily, Hickory spotted the bright red band running across it, and that made the identification easy–it’s a red-banded hairstreak!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Know what this plant is? The butterflies seem to like it.

I’ll check back later for your answers in the comments!

~~~

Maybe this view of the bush in it’s habitat will give an additional hint?

If you’ve guessed that this is a wetland, you’re correct. Like a willow, this bush with the ball-shaped flowers likes its roots wet. Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, is found in freshwater marshes, swamps and along floodplains in eastern and southern North America. It’s a favorite mid-summer nectar source for butterflies because, like composites, there are many small flowers grouped together. That makes for an easy food stop!

V is for Variegated Fritillary

This orange and black checkered butterfly is sometimes mistaken for a monarch, but a second look usually tells you humans that this species is a lighter orange. Then you wonder what it is, and can’t get close enough to tell because it’s easily scared off–in fact, this fritillary’s genus name Euptoieta comes from the Greek word euptoietos meaning “easily scared.”

Variegated Fritillaries mostly lay their eggs on the Passionflower plant, but if you keep a suitably diverse lawn–what Miz Flora has heard humans call messy–you may see them on violets as well–another ‘V’ in nature for our Blogging From A to Z Challenge!

Their Speyeria fritillary relatives, like the Great Spangled Fritillary, seek out only violets.