Have You Met Mayapple?

Every spring I begin the hunt for the mayapple. This is a plant that grows wild and usually it I find it in ditches alongside the road, but sometimes it is growing in the midst of a group of trees.

It is a plant that you might notice because it usually grows in colonies. My research tells me that these plants may be connected underground through  systems of thick rhizomes. (Rhizomes are subterranean stems of a plant often sending shoots and roots from its nodes.)

Also called hogapple, Indian apple, mayflower, umbrella plant, wild lemon, wild mandrake, American mandrake  or "devil's apple"

Also called hogapple, Indian apple, mayflower, umbrella plant, wild lemon, wild mandrake, American mandrake or “devil’s apple”

The leaves are large and umbrella shaped. If that’s all you see, you are missing the magic of this plant. Each stem splits and a flower grows in the V.

bud 2

bud

Here is a young bud, but look below and see the fully developed flower. Some must be shy or else the view is better looking away from the road. So delicate and beautiful!

flower back

flower

Just like an apple blossom from a tree, this flower develops into a miniature apple.

apple

The ripened fruit is edible in moderate amounts, though when consumed in large amounts the fruit is poisonous. I wonder what a massive amount is. The apple is no bigger than an M & M. The American Indians used it for medicinal purposes. It can also be used topically for warts.

Interestingly it is not the apple that develops in May, but the blossom appears in May. Apparently the apple develops later, so maybe I have not seen the fully developed apple. When the weather gets hot the plant seems to wither away until next year.

Now you have met Mayapple, perhaps you will be seeing it as you drive country roads.

All Gone

On Sunday, this was the poop crusted nest. I guess these conditions don't bother them.

On Sunday, this was the poop crusted nest. I guess these conditions don’t bother them.

“Quick come here, wear shoes,” my husband calls to me as he sticks his head into the house. Quickly I leave my desk and grab my shoes as I hustle into the garage. He leads me around the side of the house. I now know this must have something to do with the infant wrens that have been living in the spruce. Unfortunately, he didn’t say bring your camera. My phone is sitting on my desk. So if this is a fleeting moment, I will only be able to describe it with words. Mentally I am fussing at myself for not grabbing some device. (FYI, it is now Thursday)

However, it is not a fleeting moment. I have time to get back into the house for the camera. In fact I have about twenty hours to record this sight. There on one slim branch of the spruce is one of the babies.

"I'm not looking at her!"

“I’m not looking at her!”

I stay back and employ the zoom feature of the camera. I do not want to be responsible for startling this young wren and making it lose its grip on the branch. Its back is to me, as I try to angle and get a close shot of this petrified baby bird. Or is it a teenager now?

Overhead mama is having a fit. She flits from one roof to the next with nonstop squawking . Let’s just imagine we can translate, I’m thinking she is saying: “Don’t let go! Lady, get away from my baby! What do you think you are doing? This is a training session you are interrupting! Go back into your house! Leave us alone! Close your eyes baby! Don’t look down! Step away from the tree, no, not you baby! If I was braver, I’d peck your head and push you away! Why, why, why?” There were probably additional words which I won’t print here too.

She must be able to chirp with her beak closed, because she was having a fit over my presence.

She must be able to chirp with her beak closed, because she was having a fit over my presence.

After I took a few photos, I returned to the house so mama could calm down and continue with her lesson. Several more times during the afternoon and in the evening, I went out to check on the baby. It was still hanging on to that same branch but it had turned around. Unfortunately it rained a bit in the afternoon. So in the morning, it looked quite plump. However, after rain soaked the feathers, it looked considerably smaller and more pathetic. It continues to keep its eyes closed. The theory must be, if I can’t see you, you can’t see me.

This poor chick did not know to get out of the rain. So now it looks much thinner.

This poor chick did not know to get out of the rain. So now it looks much thinner.

In the morning I went out to get the paper, but I took a quick peek down the side of the house. Believe it or not, it was still clinging to the branch. Poor little wren! What a miserable night it must have had! Later I checked on it and this time it was no where to be found. All that was left was a very poop covered branch. (I’ll let you imagine this one.)

In the beginning, there were five eggs, but I think only three hatched. I don’t know when the others flew the nest, but no one is home now. Sigh! How quickly they grow up and leave the nest!

Little of This, Some of That

First off, last week I forgot to give an update of my chirping side neighbors. I had not spied on the babies for several days because the weather had turned chilly and I did not want mama to fly leaving her chicks to face the cold alone. Saturday they were quite chatty. I could hear them chirping away as I watched my husband pulling out the pansies under the sand cherry tree. Stealthily I approached the spruce tree, however mama zoomed away quickly. The chattering quickly died as I parted the limbs. They became still as statutes while they fastened their beady eyes on me.That nest is very crowded, so as soon as they can break free, they will be gone. It must be quite the balancing act when mama is home too.nest

Apparently we have quite the nursery within our vegetation. Aren’t these photo the saddest sight? My husband thinks there is a nest in the honeysuckle vine that drapes over our fence. I looked but could not locate it. We left for dinner, so I checked to see if it was still there when we returned. No sign of this chick.

bird 1bird 2

So you’ve read a little of this, now it’s time for some of that. River birch trees are incredibly interesting with its peeling bark. Last week I wrote about how the river birch altered its growing to avoid the roof. This week I must tell you about the seed cone of this tree. They hang like tassels flinging their pollen in the wind. Everything, I mean everything takes on a greenish-yellow cast. Once the pollen has left, the seed cone drops. We call these seed cones worms, because that’s what they look like as they hang in the tree and on the ground.

Recently we had quite a bit of rain. All drain spouts were awash in the “worms” of the birch. They lay on the concrete like dried worm carcasses. As I gazed up through the vivid green leaves to the brilliant blue sky, I noticed most of the tassels were gone. Thank goodness! Now we can get back to enjoying the beauty of the tree.

These "worm" were scooped out of the drain to the left. Yuk!

These “worm” were scooped out of the drain to the left. Yuk!

How Did It Know?

How do branches know where to grow? This is the question that puzzled me one day as I observed a tree in my backyard.

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It is a river birch tree set in the corner near the house. There are three trunks, two that grow straight and tall, but this one came close to the roof and as it grew it shifted. It continued to shift until it passed the corner of the roof, then it continued on its straight and narrow path. It never touched the house with the trunk. How did it know to be slightly out of reach of the roof? Why didn’t it grow and hit the roof?

This got me to looking as I walked along my usual road.

Why did this trunk all of a sudden bend to the right, there was not a single thing around it. Why did it do this?

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Like a snake it slithered up from the trunk. It found its way around this object from man. It continued to wind and creep its way to the top of the pole. How did it know that it could grow all around and continue?

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3

Branches reach out to hug some unseen presence while the trunk of its neighbor zigzags its way, creating a dance as it moves up.

5

A friend sent me a photo of a tree she walks by. She said this tree is navigating life as it twists and turns. How does it know when to twist?

raegan tree