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.

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One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

It’s not only acorns that are falling, the leaves are following…

or more specifically, this leaf has fallen. If you know what kind it is, or just have a guess and want to play, give me an answer in the comments!

~~~

We squirrels don’t see this too often–a doubly compound leaf. The smaller leaflets are actually leaflets of the larger leaf. In fact, Miz Flora tells us that this small tree can even have triply compound leaves!

It’s a Devil’s Walkingstick or Hercules Club, Aralia spinosa, which if you try to climb the trunk, your paws will tell you exactly correct. Usually growing at the sunny edges of woods, this native tree can grow to 20 feet tall where they lean their huge flower heads out, letting bees and butterflies find them.

Now, in the fall, each of the tiny flowers has become a berry.

We squirrels don’t eat them–can’t get to them!–but they seem to disappear. It’s the birds, of course, thrushes, sparrows and pigeons, but Miz Flora says she’s seen fox and skunk eating them. And chipmunks–they must be waiting for them to fall! That’s the only way to get them that Nutmeg and I can figure out.

 

Even if it’s not something we eat, this is a pretty cool tree that seems almost hidden from humans.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Any idea what these things on the leaves are?

Check back with you later!

~~~

Guess we should have clarified that these things are not ‘on’ the leaves but are growing out of them. That’s what happens when something gets into the leaf tissue and the leaf doesn’t like it. This might be an insect laying an egg or a fungus spore getting into a wound. The tree cells rally and create a ‘gall’ around the invader. Different plants create different galls, the most famous and noticeable being the Oak Apple Gall. (Squirrel kits have to learn that those are not  food, since they grow where we expect acorns!)

We had to write back to our reader to learn what kind of a tree this was…by the way, thank you to Jeanine for allowing us to use her photos for today’s mystery!

The tree looks like a type of wild cherry, but we’re not sure which.

So with that information, we were able to narrow our search and came up with spindle galls. Viette’s Views gardening blog has an excellent photo essay on galls which includes notes on spindle galls, caused by microscopic mites called eriophyid mites.

Ok, that sound like a bug you can’t stop, and the tree is dealing with it the best it can!

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.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

This plant has a symmetry thing going on. (The closer one, not the one in the background–the mystery from a week ago!) Any idea what it is?

I’ll check back for your answers later.

~~~

This five-leaved plant is a new tree–a Willow Oak. This one has just sprouted after we squirrels planted one of a neighboring tree’s acorns. Later, the leaves won’t be radiation out from one point, but will look like this.

Here’s a new Willow oak…

and here’s a mature one in our neighborhood.

We’re happy to see you humans planting them.

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!

S is for Squirrels!

Yes, folks, squirrels.

And everything we love–

Big oak trees,

Acorns,

Leaf nests,

Birdfeeders,

Sunning on your decks

Running on the golf course.

This is our squirrel world and we love it.

 You see, today is Earth Day.

We hope you love your world, too. Maybe you’ll take care of it for all of us?

Happy Earth Day!

 

D is for Deadwood

(Sorry to be late this morning! Can you tell we’re not back into the swing of blogging yet? 😉 )

Yes, Deadwood, and not the show or the town. To us squirrels, deadwood means, dead wood, what human arborists call a ‘snag.’

Snags are many things to wildlife. Maybe a place to live!

 

Or a place to find food, because as everyone knows, bugs love to burrow!

It’s also a place for new life to begin, because that decomposing wood is really rich minerals.

In other words, what might be trash to be taken out to some humans…

is really a valuable resource in our habitat.