Thirsty Thursday

Another day, another rainstorm here in northern Virginia. One that clear up quickly.

This one knocked all the ‘flowers’ from the White Pine trees.

Hopefully this means the worst of their pollen is gone!

Nothing like a rainstorm to clear the air!


Step on a Crack…

Hickory and I leapt over the cracks in the sidewalk today, but not because we were worried about breaking anyone’s back, our mothers or otherwise. Can you see this line of yellow?

pollen in a sidewalk crack

That’s a layer of pollen washed from the sky by the rainstorms of the last few days. We didn’t step on those cracks, because we didn’t want pollen on our paws. Yuck, pine pollen is everywhere! When we rounded the corner, there it was in full blast.

yellow pollen cloud

The culprit?  In our neighborhood, it’s these White Pine ‘candles’.

White Pine staminate flowers

The staminate (male) flowers produce pollen from April to the end of June, not continuously, (Because you understand here in Reston, it’s now!) but anytime during that period depending where the tree is in the country, just like the blossoming time of other flowers varies from north to south and by altitude up and down the mountain sides.

White Pine staminate flower

This is not the part that becomes the cone. That would be the pistillate (female) flowers that are slightly pink. My tail is drooping because I didn’t get a photo of those.

White Pine, Pinus strobus, grows over much of the Eastern United States, mainly from being planted these days. Once upon a time, forests of pine covered much of the land, but it was logged off. Miz Flora says the straight trunks were prized for masts for ships

New Trees

These little pines appeared last spring, all in a row.

White Pine seedlings

I think they have all survived and are looking especially healthy. Miz Flora was just confirming they are White Pines, when Hickory yelled the same name down from above me.

White Pine seedling

Over the last few weeks, humans are bringing evergreens like this inside. We’re not sure why, but wonder if some day these will be big enough to do that.




Food Dropping

Acorns and cones alike are dropping like crazy around here in Northern Virginia.

I’m not sure if it’s true that this means the winter will be bad. I asked Hickory, just to see him squirm.

He shrugged. “How would a tree predict the weather? Wait a second—are you trying to trick me into work?”

“Well, the rest of us have been burying acorns for a few weeks now.”

Miz Flora leaped up. “You know what they say about The Grasshopper and the Ants.”

“No, what?”

“To work today is to eat tomorrow.”

She ran off and I ran after her. I hope he gets the hint.

Virginia Pine

Miz Flora has been bugging me to talk about the Virginia Pine, Pinus virginiana. This native species was indeed named for our fair state, but is found throughout the mid-Atlantic.

“Tell them Virginia Pine can grow in the poor sandy or clay soils of our area,” Miz Flora said.

“Then why don’t more new neighborhoods plant it instead of White Pine,” I asked.

Miz Flora swished her tail in that way I’ve learned means she’s irritated. “The other one looks fluffier, I guess. Pretty from the start. Virginia Pine will grow on poor soil; I didn’t say it grew nice. It ends up stunted. More like a character tree.”

“Hmm, ok. It still has seeds we can eat, right?”


“Well, that’s good enough for squirrels.”

Miz Flora pointed to a branch. “Compare the Virginia Pine with the White Pine. The native tree has a shorter needle and only two twisted needles to a fascicle.”


“The bundle. Tell them to look at the smaller cone, too. This is last year’s but it still gives a good idea of the size and shape. Nothing like that long skinny cone you showed back in May.”

“No?” I looked back at my pictures. “Uh, no, you’re right.”

“Tell that, too, and Hickory’s post.”

“Okay, I will.”

Miz Flora scampered off, and then stopped and called, “And another thing, Nutmeg? Show the two trees beside each other. I’m sure you can get a photo over near the Great Lawn.”

So you heard all that, right? Here are the  May 27 and May 30 White Pine blogs for comparison.

Whew. Time for a nap.


Lightening was still flashing across the skies as the rain let up and I stuck my head out of my new leaf nest. It held up well through a severe storm that blew through in the middle of the night, probably because the branches are still new and flexible. But the lawn below looked like a hundred squirrels had descended and nipped all the branches they could reach. In other words, a hundred times worse than my clippings Hickory showed you yesterday. We needed the rain, but not like this!

With the human sirens sounding and all of us a little shaky from riding out the storm in swaying trees, Hickory and I did a little tour of the neighborhood. Leaves and branches littered the ground and streets.

A few trees fell, thankfully none of them ours. We’ll have to do a better check once it’s light out.


We’re back with a daylight update. Please be careful out there – some branches–large branches that could pass for small trees–are still hanging and could fall.

Ol’ Wally told us younger squirrels humans used to call these ‘widow-makers.’

In our region, the storms mostly blow in from the west. As we scampered around we detected how that affects the trees and their branches. Of these two old spruces, the one on the western side now leans eastward.

This Red Maple branch that extended across the street got twisted backwards, but…

a neighboring oak’s dead branch in the lee of the trunk didn’t break.

The tops of several of the forty-year-old White Pines we’ve talked about snapped clean off.

This isn’t unusual Miz Flora says, because pine is a ‘softwood’. The tree grows fast, so the plant cells forming the trunk are large and well, soft. The wood breaks, is easy to cut and burns quickly.

So our neighborhood got by with minor damages, and we hope all our local neighbors fared as well.

White Pine

I’m still quite breathless after yesterday’s scare, so Hickory and I stuck real close to the leaf nests today and under cover of the evergreen trees in the neighborhood. That included the White Pines he showed you Sunday, so we took the liberty of dropping one of those new cones down for comparison. The green one wasn’t what you’d call ‘ripe’ yet. But that’s what we’re seeing at the tips of the upper branches. We put it next to one of last year’s open cones.