One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We’re late, but here’s a small mystery that was blooming back in April.

Post your guess what this is in the comments and we’ll be back later to check answers!

 

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We had a correct guess! These are Dutchman’s Breeches–they look like little human trousers hanging out to dry. As our reader Sarasinart says, this spring wildflower blooms before the trees set leaves and while the sunlight still reaches the forest floor. Then they are gone–flowers and soon leaves–for another year.

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One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Here’s a little plant we see coming up in any corner humans leave alone–and it’s still blooming, which is good for the bees.

But what is it?

I’ll check in for your guesses later!

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This is one of those plants you see everywhere, but don’t really bother to find out what it is.Unless you are like Miz Flora. In fact, it grows really well in some areas.

This is a smartweed, thought some humans might tell you it’s a knotweed. They are both members of the Polygonum family. 75 different species of smartweed grow in North America, and they all have those little pink flowers at the ends of the growing stems, like this Polygonum we leaped across.

If the flowers were  growing from the leaf axils–like every spot a leaf emerges from a stem–it would be a knotweed. So keep your eyes peeled the next time you see a smartweed and see if it’s knotweed!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

We’ve still got flowers around, and with no hard freeze, the insects are still visiting them.

Do you recognize this flower and / or the insect?

Give us a guessing the comments and I’ll pop back in to check your answers.

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We had a correct guess today–this is a hoverfly (to the best of a squirrel’s knowledge about insects!) They are also known as syrphid flies, named from their family name, Syrphidae. Hoverfly tends to be an easier name to remember because it describes what they do–hover.

And they look so similar to bees! See, the black and yellow body is screaming Danger, get back! But the big eyes were a dead giveaway for Nutmeg  and I to figure out that this had to be a fly.

Hoverflies, in the adult fly form, eat nectar and pollen, feeding on wildflowers like these late-blooming asters. Since we are nearing that gruesome holiday that you humans love–Halloween–lets talk a bit about the larvae, which have a much more interesting feeding habits. Fly larvae are…do you remember? Maggots! Different species of the Syrphidae prey on other insects, very much like ladybugs eat aphids, while others eat decaying plants and animals, very much like vultures. That’s quite a family!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Ol’ Wally beat me to posting a mystery this week…but I’m okay with that because I had already told The Squirrel Nutwork blogging team that I couldn’t be around later today. So here’s the thing: if you didn’t see Ol’ Wally’s column on Thursday, ponder what you think this plant is:

Then go over to the Thirsty Thursday column and check your answer!

I should be back next week with a new mystery!

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.

 

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this flower?

Give us a guess in the comments. I’ll be back later to check your guesses.

~~~

This stunning wildflower is Ironweed, named for its tough stem. It’s also pretty hard to dig up the roots and in some places you humans are finding it more on the weedy side of wildflowers–native, but taking over.

Since Vernonia noveboracensis is a member of the aster family, and has all those tiny flowers that put out gobs of seeds, who would expect anything else?

Miz Flora is pleased with the bright color, and Ironweed loves a wet area, so that might help out in a few awkward garden spots. Keep in mind, it’s almost as tall–7 feet–as a Joe Pye Weed, so don’t put it in front of anything small!

And in local flower-bird relationships…

We have long admired the flowers our neighborhood humans have chosen to plant–with decided favoritism to native wildflowers!

Today, Hickory, Miz Flora and I leaped over to a new garden bed they put in this spring. Miz Flora though it was quite resourceful–though long-overdue–that they split their coneflowers and planted the splits in a new location, adding to the beds.

The plants don’t have the fullness of the original bed, but for only being in six weeks or so, they are doing well. Except…why are some of the flowers missing petals?

“Wait!” Hickory chitters. “I want to save that for mystery day.”

We squirrel-grappled with this–which meant lots of running around tree trunks–but finally I won out…mainly because Miz Flora spoke up!

The petals are being plucked off by finches as they eat the seeds on that side of the flower.

Miz Flora asked: “I want you to pose this question to our regular readers: Have you ever observed finches eat flower seeds while they are most definitely still green?”

We are confused, maybe because squirrels don’t eat green acorns.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there,

While you were out hiking yesterday, did you come across anything as common as these?

By chance do you know the specific type? (I know, all those little flowers look alike, but Miz Flora would be pleased if anyone knows!)

Check in for your answers later!

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Two of our readers agreed these are violets. Yay! Though they’re are thirty-some species of violets in the Eastern U. S., Miz Flora was hoping someone might figure out that they are Canada Violets.

 It is near-to-impossible from photos. Canada violet has white petals with a yellow throat, and the backs of the petals are tinged with violet. Only three of the local violets are white or cream-colored, and none of the others have purple backs. You might check your white violets, but Miz Flora recommends you check more than one blossom and perhaps several times as they are blooming.