bloodroot

Native bloodroot started to bloom March 26 2020

 

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant.”

– Anne Bradstreet

This year, the winter here in Connecticut was warmer than usual and had little snow, but plenty of rain. Plants like star magnolias, forsythias and hellebore started to bloom early- here on the UConn campus a Hellebore bloomed the first week of March. A small snowstorm on March 23 brought two inches of snow in central Connecticut and was followed by enough rain to melt any snow cover off by the following day. Bloom progress on the star mags and forsythia came to a halt, but it should resume as flower buds were generally not damaged.

march snow 2020

March 23 snowstorm

Resident birds like turkeys are making their presence known as they go about the serious business of attracting mates. Their fanning of tail feathers and stomping around makes them hard to miss. Woodpeckers are also drumming to attract mates, and red-bellied woodpeckers send out their familiar call advertising what they deem the perfect nesting holes for potential females to check out. They often are inside these holes, just poking their heads out to call.

male turkeys fanning

Male turkeys fanning

Wood frogs and spotted salamanders have laid their eggs in vernal pools and they should be hatching any day now. Wood frog eggs tend to float to the water’s surface, while the salamander eggs are stuck on underwater stems. Both the eggs of wood frog and spotted salamander are sometimes invaded by certain symbiotic algae whose cells are transferred to the hatching generation of their amphibian hosts.

wood frog eggs floating on the surface of a vernal pool March 19 2020

Wood frog eggs masses on the surface of a vernal pool in March

An Eastern garter snake was encountered yesterday deep in the woods. This native snake can mate in March- early May and gives birth to live young in late June- August. This snake can tolerate cold weather and is commonly seen where there is an abundance of most vegetation where it will feed on toads, frogs, worms and other creatures.

garter snake in deep woods near a strem MArch 26 2020

Eastern garter snake in the woods

Lichens are an example of a symbiotic partnership between a fungus and an algae or a cyanobacterium. The fungal part depends upon the other component to survive. The rock tripe is a lichen that resembles dead leaves and is found living on rocks. Umbilicaria mammulata is the most common rock tripe. Soft and pliable like leather in moist weather, when conditions are dry these leaf-like lichens will shrivel and become quite brittle.

rock tripe lichen Umbilicaria

Rock tripe lichens on a boulder in the woods

Bracket fungi, or shelf, fungi comprise numerous species of the Polypore Family in the class basidiomycete. These fungi obtain energy through the decomposition of dead and dying plant matter. The visible fruiting body can be long- lived and hard like wood adding a new layer of living fungal matter at the base of the structure every year. Fungal threads are within the dead or dying woody host where they obtain nutrients.

Phellinus robiniae shelf fungi on decaying tree trunk

Phellinus robiniae shelf fungus are hard like wood

Wooly bear caterpillars, Colletes ground nesting bees and mourning cloak butterflies are a few insects that are active in March. Often seen crawling across lawns in late March, wooly bears are looking to pupate soon, while the Colletes are looking for pollens and nectar sources to provide food for their young, which hatch singly in nesting chambers that resemble ant hills. From the ground level.

Early flowering plants are a good source of pollen and nectar for bees. These include the Japanese andromeda, native bloodroot, spring flowering witch hazel native spicebush, willows, daffodils, crocus and dandelions.

spring witchhazel flowers

Spring flowering witch hazel

As you hike about, check out stalks of plants and small branches of shrubs for mantid eggs cases. These eggs masses resemble tan styrofoam and Mantids should hatch by mid-May, depending upon weather.

mantid egg case keeney st pl March 22 2020

Egg case of a praying mantis

Native sweet ferns, Comptonia peregrina, are blooming and leafing out. These aromatic small shrubs are members of the bayberry family and can be found in dry open woods where there are sandy, acid soils. They are a good spreading plant for difficult dry soils and slopes, and they are one of the host plants for the gray hairstreak butterfly.

sweet fern flowering and leafing out March 22 2020

Sweet fern catkins and new leaves

 

The days are warming up and soon the landscapes will be full of color. But even when it is not so bright and cheery outside, as Charles Dickens wrote ‘ Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own”

 

Pamm Cooper

 

Pinxterflower Native Azalea blooming in late May in Northern Connecticut

Pinxter flower Native Azalea blooming in late May in Northern Connecticut

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
– Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening

My spirit always gets a jolt of energy and enthusiasm when green again is the prevailing color in the landscape, sprinkled here and there with the hues of native flowers. Along with the color reversal- the drabness of winter transformed to the vitality of new growth- comes the corresponding fauna that completes the composition of the landscape. Together, it is a better symphony than even Mozart could compose. For good or bad, nature has its own comprehensive coordination of flora and fauna, and all play the perfect instrument in the classical themes of nature. Phenology is a reliable system of determining what is happening and where to look for it.

This spring may have been late to start, plant development being 10 to 15 days behind “ normal”. But once plants started to green up, animals, birds and insects appeared on schedule right behind them. Last week, mantids emerged from their egg cases which normally is an event of mid- May rather than late May. But they are on a timetable that is in harmony with a calendar that is unrelated to the one we go by, and as such they can never be ‘ late”.

Chipping sparrows just hatched Late May

Chipping sparrows just hatched Late May

Late May is the time of lady slippers, columbine, tulip tree flowers and the star grasses. June follows with the milkweeds, the first of which is usually the whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata), which is found in dry soils often near woodland edges in a little shade. The Pinxter azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides) can flower from early May to early June depending on location here in Connecticut. Named for the European Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Pinxter has honeysuckle-like flowers that are fragrant and appear in early spring, generally before the leaves appear. Look for these near the upland edges of ponds and streams.

Native Columbine

Native Columbine

This time of year gray tree frogs can be found along the ground and on low shrubs looking for mates. These frogs sing answering choruses during the day from perches in trees and come down during the night to feed on insects and other morsels. They may be endangered by mowing lawns as they are not exactly swift to respond to dangers while in the courting mode. Box turtles often appear in open areas during the day following rains. Many a box turtle leaving its forest home for a day has been spared from death when crossing the roads by alert and kindly motorists.

gray tree frog saved from the mower June 3 2015

Gray tree frog saved from a bad mowing experience on June 3 2015

Leaf feeding beetles are in full force now, including some of the more. Check native viburnum and dogwood for the attractively marked calligrapha beetles that feed exclusively on these trees and shrubs. Not as worrisome as the viburnum leaf beetles and the dogwood sawflies, these beetles usually occur in small numbers and are seldom pests. Potato beetles are laying eggs as we speak, so be on the alert for rows of yellow eggs on potato and related plants.

3-lined potato beetle laying eggs on nightshade June 3, 2015

3-lined potato beetle laying eggs on nightshade June 3, 2015

The colorful lily leaf beetle has already laid eggs, and its larvae are active now. On a good note, assassin bugs and predatory plant bugs are currently on the prowl and also should be laying eggs. Lady beetle larvae are also active now. So with mantids out and with the other predatory insects active in the landscape, aphids and other pests may be taken out to some degree. Pine sawyer adults are also active now and they are sometimes attracted to oil based stains applied to decks and railings.

Viburnum calligrapha beetle

Viburnum calligrapha beetle

Dogwood calligrapha beetle

Dogwood calligrapha beetle

If you have catbirds and cardinals living nearby, you may want to add a birdbath to your landscape. Catbirds especially enjoy a good bath morning and evening. Make sure to put the birdbath where afternoon sun will not cause the water to get too hot. Catbirds in particular take objection to a hot bath and will let you know the water needs changing. My dad had catbirds for years that would mew loudly after testing the water with their feet and found it was too hot for their taste. So he would put fresh water in and, within seconds, the birds were having a cool, afternoon bath.

Busy birdbath

Busy birdbath

Enjoy what remains of this spring. Remember to water any recently planted trees, shrubs and other plants if drought conditions return. And try not to get annoyed if house wrens living nearby break the morning peace with their loud trilling and chirring voices. They probably have young nearby and are celebrating that soon their nestlings will become fledglings, and in due time they will be on their own.

Pamm Cooper                       All photos copyright 2015 by Pamm Cooper