Thirsty Thursday


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.


Thirsty Thursday

Folks, It’s late summer and the rains have been good to us lately. Lots of thick vegetation around the pods in our area. Perhaps you recognize some of these water-loving plants?

Yes, you might say I’m horning in a bit on Hickory’s mystery column…but that’s okay because he won’t be posting this Sunday.

The tall pink plant is Joe Pye Weed.

The shorter but brilliant red one is Cardinal Flower.

Both are good choices if you have a bit of a wet area. Water-loving plants can pull up the extra water in a spot like that and prevent mosquitos from laying their eggs.


W is for Water


Hello, folks! Ol’ Wally stepping in here for Nutmeg. I couldn’t let her use anything but water for today’s Blogging From A to Z Challenge. First, because it’s Thursday, and our regular readers know this is the day this old squirrel runs the Thirsty Thursday column featuring water. And second, we’ve had so much rain in these parts that it’s getting a bit hard to ignore.

‘Suppose you humans know how important water is. I mean, your lives depend on it. So do ours, but we wildlife aren’t in as good a position to keep that water source clean, or even there. We are relying on you all.

That means good planning when you put in your buildings…

to where that water goes from your parking lots…

to putting in places where the smaller critters might have a damp home…

to bigger solutions for water cleaning and recycling for entire buildings…

to simply putting out water when it isn’t raining, like in the heat of summer…

or the frozen winter.

It’s not from a squirrel, but let me leave you with this wise Native American proverb:

The frog does not drink up the pond in which he lives.

Thirsty Thursday & Bees like tubular flowers!

Nutmeg wrote all about composite flowers yesterday, but Ol’ Wally is here to tell you bees also like tubular flowers. Why? They have more nectar collecting down at the bottom of that tube. So it can be just as efficient to visit one good tube flower–like a Pink Turtlehead!Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Bee in Pink Turtlehead

Now, that’s the only way to see a bee disappear. And please note, Ol’ Wally is showing you humans a tubular flower that is also a water-loving plant. Pink Turtlehead is a wonderful wildflower if you’ve got a bit of a damp area around your property.

Thirsty Thursday

Nutmeg and Hickory have both shown you humans the Common Milkweed plant. Well, Ol’ Wally here has a milkweed a mite better.

Swamp Milkweed

How do you like them blossoms?? ‘Pretty in pink’ as I’ve heard humans say. This is Swamp Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata, which is sometimes known as Pink Milkweed–but you know how Miz Flora hates common names, so we’ll stick to the proper one.

Aside from the brighter color, this milkweed flower doesn’t form a ball like Common Milkweed, but is more like the orange Butterflyweed in shape. And I bet you readers have already guessed–since this old squirrel is featuring this plant on the water column–that Swamp Milkweed likes a wet soil. Only wet, though, it won’t grow in standing water. Like the other milkweeds, it is highly attractive to nectar feeders, and the sap in the leaves (that the caterpillars eat) even contains the same toxins as Common Milkweed.


Yellow Water Iris

All this rain we’ve had has the streams running high here in northern Virginia and the ponds full. This old squirrel has stayed clear of them for fear of being washed away. Same for the roads–but because you humans can’t see a gray squirrel when it’s raining. Besides, who wants wet fur?

The rain has been good for the plants. Our suburban neighborhood is fully green and it seems we’ve moved to the early summer flowers. Because it’s Thursday, we can enjoy pond flowers today!

pond edge with Yellow Water Iris

Unfortunately, not native ones.

Yellow Water Iris

Yellow Water Iris has naturalized in North America, but is an invasive plant that some feel is becoming a little too common. Humans like it, plant it and any bit of broken roots spread the plant. We read a good suggestion: only plant this iris in closed garden ponds, not streams, canals or open waterways where the plant roots and seeds can be carried downstream and spread.

One of Nature’s Mysteries To Solve

Hey there!

Seems we’ve had a lot of mystery plants lately. How about a mystery frog for a change!

Mystery # 124

What kind of frog is it, and how can you tell?

I’ll check back for your guesses!


No one ventured out in the heat to take a guess today. A late hint…it’s not by the color. Any of our local large frogs can be brown to tan to green.

This huge hopper is a Bullfrog. One way to tell is by looking at the webbing in a bullfrog’s toes; on the longest middle toe, the webbing does not go all the way to the tip of the toe. But how many of you human readers have been that close to a bullfrog–how many of us squirrels, for that matter? 

The easiest way to tell on a frog sitting out of the water like this old fellow, is by the back. A Bullfrog does not lave those ridges running along the sides of his back. In science-speak, they are called the dorsolateral ridges. For comparison, here is a Green Frog, who does have the ridges.

dorsolateral ridges on Green Frog

See the difference? Hope this helps next time you are lurking around a pond and hopping with curiosity!


T is for Toad on Thirsty Thursday

Pretty good day for this old squirrel for matching the Blogging A to Z Challenge letter and Ol’ Wally’s regular water column. All amphibians have a ‘double life’, including the American Toad who starts his life as a tadpole in the water.

American Toad

Though they don’t continue to live in water, toads–which you can tell apart from frogs because of their bumpy skin–continue to live in damp areas. Their skin is kind of fragile, especially if you compare it to something like a squirrel’s nice fur coat. We are rough and ready!

Some folks in these parts like to encourage toads to stay in their gardens. They leave drifts of leaves in the corners so the toads can hide during the heat of the day, then come out at night to eat those pesky slugs. Ms. Flora tells me some of the neater humans remove all their leaves, so if you’re one of those, may I recommend some other shelter? Maybe one of these fancy houses?

Toad House

I can’t guarantee it works as well as damp leaves, but anything is worth a try to keep the slug population in check!

N is for Nice Habitat on Thirsty Thursday

This old squirrel is struggling to match a ‘N’ Blogging A to Z Challenge post with his regular Thirsty Thursday column. Ol’ Wally here has searched around, but he doesn’t seem to have ever seen a newt at our backyard ponds, just a Northern Cardinal.

Northern Cardinal at backyard pond

Maybe one thirsty bird does fit, after all, that’s the point of writing about water. And, heh, I see I’m not the first to see it happen.

Cardinal sundial birdbath

But after a little thought I decided our gardening readers might be a little more inspired by seeing what a few years in a sunny spot will do for your water-loving plants.

frog pond

Nice, huh? And if you clever human readers have any suggestions of other ‘N’ related water items, shoot me a  message.