L is for Lenten Rose

No, it’s not a native, but Lenten Rose does grow nicely with a naturalized look. Even better it adds a very early, long-bloomer to your garden that will help bees and other insects when little else is blooming. And Miz Flora says here’s a tip you human gardeners will like: Deer and rabbits don’t like to eat Hellebores. Their leaves produce a poisonous alkaloid that tastes bad–but note this might bother humans with sensitive skin.

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May flowers are here!

Well, Hickory took the week off and I’m…late. Can you tell the rain has thrown us squirrels off schedule? But the wet has brought out the leaves to their fullest and sped flowers!

Don’t you humans have a saying that “April showers bring May flowers” ?

spring aster

I think it’s an aster, but Miz Flora rarely bothers identifying composites because they’re difficult. If any of our readers know, please feel free to speak up! It’s that kind of day.

Hooray! A reader wrote to tell us it’s Daisy Fleabane, Erigeron annuus. Asters only bloom in the fall, whereas the fleabanes start in late spring and bloom through to fall. If you look carefully in the photo’s background you can see this plant kind of popped up next to some day lilies. The Daisy Fleabane apparently does that–just grows in waste places and open fields.

I suppose if the humans in our suburbs didn’t mow so much we’d see more of them.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

With the effort of completing our Blogging From A to Z Challenge, I–Hickory squirrel–considered skipping out on today…but couldn’t let you down. Also, it’s an anniversary for this column!

Our Mystery column has been running on Sundays for 4 years, having started in April of 2012. We have taken some Sundays off and take a winter hiatus, so today is the 150th mystery I have posted.

In honor of that, here is the first mystery I posted.

mystery #150

No cheating by looking back! (Ha, but who can stop you?)

I’ll check in later with your answer!

~~~

We had a correct guess today! Yes, these are oak catkins, all dried up and blown together in a heap along our streets.

 

‘Catkins’ are the male flowers, in this case of oak trees, that carry the pollen. If the wind blows the right direction, sending the pollen grains to the female flowers on the branches, they will eventually make acorns.

White Oak

With this many catkins we’re sure it will!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

It’s our day off from the Blogging From A to Z Challenge, but things are still sprouting in the woods.

Mystery #148

Any idea what it is?

Give us your guess, and we’ll check in later with the answer.

~~~

Did you try to guess our mystery today?

Heh. It’s a difficult one. Spring blooming. The leaves only rise from the base and are single with the veins running the length of them. Does that help?

This type of leaf means the plant is a member of the Orchid family. Yes, we have wild orchids in Virginia!

In a few weeks, they will look like this:

Pink Lady's Slipper

Pink Lady’s Slipper, Cypridedium acaule, is a hard-found, native spring wildflower. But once you humans do find a plant, or more, it’s one you seem to keep track of and flock back to visit each May. Their favorite trees to grow under are pine, but also oak, sweetgum and Red Maple. In fact, Miz Flora has heard tell that the tree roots attract a fungus in the soil that is necessary for these local orchids to grow. You can’t just dig up an orchid and expect it to grow anywhere! So please don’t try.

Pink Lady's Slipper

We squirrels do admit the Pink Lady’s Slipper is a spectacular one, and has a great story! The odd-shaped slipper flower has a small entrance–at the top–which forces bees to touch the flower parts–and be coated with pollen! Of course, going to the next flower pollinates it and a seed will grow. Once the seed falls to the ground, it has no extra parts to supply energy to germinate. The fungus in the soil grows over the seed, cracks it open and in attaching to the seed, supplies the food for germination.

So here’s a plant that is up to two different kinds of tricks. You’d think it was related to squirrels!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Sorry to be late with your Sunday Mystery! The cold this week slowed us squirrels down, but here you go:

Mystery #147

A little plant you’ve probably seen springing up in the lesser-tended corners of your garden…or even your lawn. But what is it?

Give us a guess in the comments, and I’ll check back in later!

~~~

One reader put out a guess that this is a speedwell…perhaps we should have shown a scale with out plant. It’s a bit larger, standing as tall or a bit taller than grass. This is Purple Dead Nettle, Lamium purpureum. It’s sometimes spelled deadnettle or dead-nettle.

Purple Deadnettle

Here’s a better photo, showing a more mature plant, with the signature purplish leaves. It is not a true nettle and does not sting–thus the ‘dead’ in front of the nettle–though looks similar.

Purple Dead Nettle stem

Note the stems are square, so the dead nettle is a mint and spreads like one. This is an invasive plant in the United States (native to Europe and Asia) can be found blooming in some corner most anytime of year when it’s warm. On the flip side of taking over you humans’  lawns, that’s helpful to bees, because they’ll come out searching for pollen most anytime it’s warm. Here’s a nice article from the Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s feature of Weed of the Month.

G is for Grape Hyacinths

Grape Hyacinths

Ok, this isn’t a native plant, but it does bloom early in the spring and lasts longer than a tulip. See how the flowers at the bottom are open but the buds at the top aren’t? It’s also pretty hardy–they lasted through the freeze we had earlier this week. Plants like this help out insects by filling in with steady nectar supplies while everything else gets going. Consider how you can provide overlapping blooms in your garden to help wildlife!