Bloodroot - Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot – Sanguinaria canadensis

After the snow melts, one of the first wildflowers to emerge is Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). Native to the eastern U.S. and Canada, it grows in woodlands and moist areas. Its name comes from its reddish-orange sap, which will stain and cause disfiguring lesions on your skin. Native Americans used the root to make a reddish dye, so one wonders if they suffered contact with the plant or if it was diluted when used.

Curiously, they live symbiotically with ants who disperse their seed,

(from Wikipedia) “a process called myrmecochory. The seeds have a fleshy organ called an elaiosome that attracts ants. The ants take the seeds to their nest, where they eat the elaiosomes, and put the seeds in their nest debris, where they are protected until they germinate. They also get the added bonus of growing in a medium made richer by the ant nest debris.”

Bloodroot spreads readily to form large colonies, ideally in moist, pH neutral soil in partial to full shade. My colony grows under deciduous red maple trees, which leaf out after they bloom, and shortly before Bloodroot complete their growing season, becoming dormant in late spring. There is a double cultivar available from nurseries, which doesn’t spread as readily as the native variety as they produce less seed. Collecting plants from the wild is prohibited, so always purchase from a reputable nursery. I believe collecting seed is allowed; however, always leave enough to ensure the growth of the colony.

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Monarch Update

Spring migration - old & young adult Photo:

Spring migration – old & young adult Photo:

I recently posted on the plight of the Monarch butterfly and things we can do to help. Mary Holland shared an awesome website that uses citizen science to track northward migrations of not just Monarchs, but other migrants as well. I love this site! For those who are curious as to when to expect visitors to your yard and gardens, check it out!

First Adult Monarch Spring 2014

First Adult Monarch Spring April 10, 2014

Yesterday, I was able to get funding from our local Garden Club (thank you ladies!) to plant 200 milkweed and coneflower plants at our Grammar School. Parents have volunteered their backs and minds to the project and teachers will use plantings to teach kids about nature.

A home-schooled neighbor, along with her younger sister, has been inspired to do a study on the plight of the Monarchs.  Her dad, who owns an orthodontic practice, has generously donated funds for packets of ‘butterfly garden’ seeds, which will be given away at local outlets by the girls to educate the public. Win-win-win all the way around for insects, plants, nature, kids and adults!

Who says that one small person can’t make a world of difference?

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Froggy Love

The suitors line up.

The suitors line up.

Two males 'practicing'?

Two males ‘practicing’?

Two days ago, I posted on the frogs in our garden pond. Yesterday, we had five wood frog males competing for one female in our little pool. At one point, I worried they would drown her – poor thing! Froggy love can be rather brutal!


Three males attached left, right & center to female wood frog with fourth one about to get on board!

My spouse was scandalized that I was taking pictures of their mating. “Give ‘em some privacy!” Really, I think the concept of modesty is limited to humans. Animals don’t seem to be distracted from their urges to reproduce. My interest is purely scientific! I am naturally curious, like my fellow WordPress blogger Mary Holland, a naturalist who explores nature and all its wondrous goings on. Every day there is some new amazement to explore.

There are plenty of snickers and rude talk, or at least inference, going on around here from those less interested in the science and more in the sex part! However, I mush on undeterred, displaying for all the world to see, my study of ‘froggy porn’ as my spouse calls it!

Wood frogs (Lithobates sylvanicus)


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Wood Frogs


“Oh baby, be mine!”

Wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) have found their way to my little garden pond next to the front steps. There is still snow in the yard, but they are announcing spring is here. To hear their mating call, click here. They sound a bit like ducks quacking.


Kind of cute, isn’t he?

These little critters are about 2-3 inches long and live in wooded areas, hunting in leaf litter for prey. They are so well camouflaged that one only sees them when they jump, making a fast getaway. They overwinter under the leaf litter and curiously, can freeze completely, even enduring repeated thaw and freeze cycles. Wood frogs only come to water, usually vernal pools, to breed. Frogs prefer vernal pools (which are ephemeral, lasting only a month or two), for breeding because they lack fish, which will prey upon eggs and tadpoles. I’ve come to the conclusion that they are a delicacy because everything eats them, including other amphibians.

Can you spy four frogs?

Can you spy four frogs?

We cover the pond over winter to prevent it from filling with leaves and debris. On Saturday morning my spouse uncovered it and it had a 2″ layer of ice covering it. Sunday I raked the garden bed surrounding the pond and was startled to uncover one of these little frogs – yikes! The ice was melting pretty fast, but seeing that we already had a tenant waiting to take up residency, I removed the rest of the ice with a rake and scooped out what leaves that had found their way in under the cover. The pond always smells a bit off at first, but the sun takes care of it after a few days.

"Your eyes are like deep forest pools."

“Your eyes are like deep forest pools.”

It only took two days to attract four frogs and more will come. The spring peepers will be next. My favorite, they are are only 1 inch long and cling to the shrubbery around the pond. They drive my spouse crazy since they incessantly “peep-peep-peep” all night long into June, especially if it rains! We will eventually also get green frogs that find their way up from the river. It’s quite a party out there some nights – all in this tiny  3 x 4 foot pond!

To learn more about wood frogs and their life cycle, click here.


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A beautiful soft pink tulip at the bulb show. I neglected to get the cultivar name (possibly Darwin Tulip ‘Ollioules’), but I think its color is lovely!

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Life out of balance

photo-5koyaanisqatsi (coy-on-iss-COT-see) Hopi
Life out of balance.
The fast paced harried world of heart pounding intensity that we inhabit often reflects a deep sense of loss and confusion. As individuals we can easily become distracted by the various roads or choices in our lives, simultaneously attached to wanting more, and fearful of losing what we have. There are times when each of us turns our back on our true self, and then frantically begins to search for clarity elsewhere. The greater disharmony we experience on the a planetary scale lives in intimate relationship to personal imbalance. This vital connection is what the Hopi term koyaanisqatsi, and represents a whole species careening about in a maze of chaos and desire in direct proportion to the confusion of millions of individuals. Rather than depressing us, this notion creates a deeper understanding and sense of hope. By focusing upon the microcosm of our individual existence and living with as much balance and integrity as possible, we are contributing to a lessening in a small way, of the greater confusion. To move toward harmony within ourselves is to help heal the greater whole.

Excerpted from Worldwords – Global Reflections To Awaken The Spirit by Victor La Cerva, MD, HEAL Foundation Press, Cordova, Tennessee

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Snowdrops boldly announce the end of winter! While they have gladly self-sowed themselves around my yard, these next to the foundation come up while most of the yard is still covered with snow. Sweetly fragrant, they perfume the air near my front steps where I sit in the sun, gathering Vitamin D into my sun-starved body. I inhale deeply the rich scent of musty-sweet, thawing earth. In a rush, I am transported back to childhood when I lived close to the earth and played all day in the fresh air, inventing games with tiny troll dolls in little streams that formed from melting snow. It was a sweet time, when there really was no ‘time’, only the present moment in which to indulge my senses in the pungent smell of earth, feeling the kiss of the sun while listening to the songs of birds heralding the coming of spring.

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