Browsing: Qu’est Que C’est

One of my favorite native trees is Sourwood – Oxydendrum arboreum. I love them for several traits that make them stand out in our landscape. Although Sourwood can grow to be large trees, many are found in the understory of our forests where they have an arching habit, rather than standing straight

Early summer always brings the fun antics of one of my favorite kinds of insects – June Bugs – more properly known as June Beetles or May Beetles. For most of us, especially in the South, a bug is any kind of insect. For entomologists, like myself, a bug is a member of a different group entirely – but I digress. As for the pronunciation of “bug”, that is another topic altogether and as far as I am concerned, up to the speaker. Cajuns would just say betaille.

Sometimes common names for plants are spot on. Devil’s Walking Stick is just such a well-named plant. Also known as Hercules’ Club, this understory tree sports thorns and spines that are designed to keep animals from eating it – and others from touching it – like us! Apart from its prickly nature, this understory tree has a number of features that make it stand out to those of us that pay close attention to details of plants.

Catching a glimpse of eggs and baby birds in backyard nests is always a treat this time of year. But on occasion, an odd egg may show up that does not match the others. In the eastern U.S. that odd-looking egg was placed there by a Brown-headed Cowbird. Known as a brood parasite, this common native species relies on other birds to incubate and raise their young, often at the expense of their own brood. My good friend John Lipscomb found a cowbird egg in one of his Bluebird boxes and inspired this story.

It is impossible to pass up a dandelion seed ball and not blow out all the seeds. I have no recollection of who showed me that it was a rule, but I did disperse quite a few seeds in my youth. First you closed your eyes, made a wish, and then blew as hard as you could with the goal of leaving only the stem behind.  Oh, and dandelions have pretty yellow flowers

Of the many species of carnivorous plants that inhabit our world, sundews are my favorites. They trap their insect diet with a carpet of short glands with sticky tips that grow from the surface of their leaves. The glue-like substance at the tips of these glands glisten in the sun, giving these plants their common name – sundews.

For me, Sweetbay Magnolia is the unsung hero among magnolias of the Gulf and Atlantic coastal regions. Smaller than its showier Southern Magnolia relative, the species is nonetheless a prominent feature of our landscape. It gives Bayhead Swamps their name and, along with Southern Magnolia, are the more common among all seven species of Magnolias.

Of the many species of plants that I encounter, the spikey ones are often the most interesting. It is true that I do visit some odd habitats and locations, but Southern Prickly Ash always gets my attention when I spot it in the places I frequent. But the thorns and spines are just some of the traits of this curious tree.