Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Catching up with Spring April 17, 2009

Spring is about change, and right now change is happening so fast that it’s hard to keep up. Yesterday we showed one Dwarf Iris flower and two buds — today there were three flowers:

All three Dwarf Iris buds have opened!
All three Dwarf Iris buds have opened!

The Trout Lily bud we showed two days ago has not yet opened, but more flower buds have appeared, and most bud stems are no longer nestled in protective leaves:

Most Trout Lily buds were standing free, not wrapped in protective leaves.
Most Trout Lily buds were standing free, not wrapped in protective leaves.

Two fruit trees have burst into bloom along Garfield Street, east of Ridgeland Avenue:

I'm not sure what kind of tree this is, but it did attract the first honey bee I've seen this spring.
I don’t know the name of this tree, but I think it’s an ornamental fruit.

So, some flowers are already blooming; others are catching up with their first buds of spring. Here’s a Lily of the Valley from the Oak Park Arts District, along Harrison Street:

As usual, the first Lily of the Valley buds formed along a south-facing wall.
As usual, the first Lily of the Valley buds formed along a south-facing wall.

After watching for more than a week, I finally spotted the first Virginia Bluebell of the year in Columbus Park:

Virginia Bluebell is a native wildflower, although these may have been planted by the Park District.

Virginia Bluebell is a native wildflower, although these may have been planted by the Park District.

Now let’s move from flowers to fruits, and the animals that eat them. In late February we posted photos of Staghorn Sumac fruits, which added color to the winter woods. We saw squirrels eat some sumac fruits this winter, but most remained on the trees until last week. That’s when I noticed Northern Flickers and Downy Woodpeckers eating sumac fruits. By today the sumac trees were stripped bare:

It seems the Flickers and other woodpeckers had eaten all the sumac berries. Perhaps it was for wood, but the may have also used the red sumac pigments to brighten the colors of their feathers.

Flickers and other woodpeckers ate all the sumac berries. Perhaps it was for food, or maybe they used red sumac pigments to brighten up their feathers.

Here’s more news of animals in our neighborhood: I heard my first Columbus Park Bullfrog of the spring — it croaked as it jumped into the lagoon, too fast for me to see. I also watched Painted Turtles sun themselves on lagoon logs, and I spotted my first Cabbage White Butterfly of 2009 in a meadow near Austin Boulevard. And my first Honey Bee of 2009 was feeding on the fruit tree flowers on Garfield.

Finally, back in early March we started following hummingbird migration on hummingbirds.net. According to the online map, the first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds reached our area more than a week ago. We finally put out our hummingbird feeder yesterday:

Our backyard hummingbird feeder. We use a mix of one part sugar to 4 parts water, and we don't add any dye.

Our backyard hummingbird feeder. We use a mix of one part sugar to four parts water, heated to boiling, and we don't add any dye.

Why the wait? No matter what we see on hummingbirds.net, we don’t know any birders who’ve seen Ruby-throats this year in Illinois. There have been no reports on IBET, and none on eBird, either. According to eBird, last year’s earliest Ruby-throat for our County was April 27. Last year we saw our first in Columbus Park on May 23.

So, these days we don’t have much faith in hummingbirds.net. It’s possible those folks are seeing a different species — perhaps Rufous Humingbirds, which wander here in colder weather — or maybe something else is going on. Anyway, our feeder’s out, and we’ll keep it filled and fresh until next fall.

And that’s the news. We’re caught up — until the next time we walk outside. There’s sure to be some new sign of spring tomorrow!

 

Yesterday a Bud, Today a Flower: Dwarf Iris April 16, 2009

Filed under: Cultivated Flowers,Plants,Seasons,Spring — saltthesandbox @ 2:12 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday we showed a photo of a Dwarf Iris flower bud, taken on a cool and overcast day:

Yesterday the weather was cool and cloudy, and the Iris bud seemed barely formed.

Yesterday the weather was cool and cloudy, and the Iris bud seemed barely formed.

Today the sun was out and temperatures rose into the sixties by lunchtime. So, look what I found about 10 inches east of the bud shown in yesterday’s post:

Drawf Iris flower, with the bud we showed yesterday at the top of the photo.

This Dwarf Iris flower bloomed this morning. (The bud from yesterday is at the top of the photo.)

A top view of the flower shows its three-part arrangement, with three long, white “beards”:

With Drawf Iris, the flower parts come in threes.

Dwarf Iris: The flower parts come in threes.

We also showed a Trout Lily bud yesterday. I checked Columbus Park today, and it had not bloomed. It’s only a matter of time, though (especially if we reach seventy degrees tomorrow).

 

Flower Buds: What’s Blooming Next? April 15, 2009

Some neighborhood plants have produced new flower buds among leaves that appeared a few days earlier. On Tuesday we found flower buds in a patch of Trout Lily leaves at Columbus Park:

The Trout Lily flower bud seems nestled in a folded leaf.

The Trout Lily flower bud seems nestled in a folded leaf.

Today we found flower buds on our neighbor’s Dwarf Iris plants:

We found a flower buds among these Dwarf Iris leaves.

We found a flower buds among these Dwarf Iris leaves.

Iris plants grow either from underground stems, called “rhizomes,” or from bulbs. Erosion has exposed the rhizomes from which these Dwarf Iris grew:

These Drawf Iris plants grew from underground stems, called rhizomes.

These Drawf Iris plants grew from underground stems, called rhizomes.

As we’ve found many times this spring, these first buds and flowers were on plants with southern exposure. The first Trout Lily buds appeared on a south-facing slope near Columbus Park lagoon, and the first Iris buds were on the south side of a parkway tree.

We should have photos of the flowers soon, since temperatures may reach seventy later this week.

—–

Note added the next day: At least one Dwarf Iris had bloomed by the next morning. Go here to see photos of the flower.

 

Leaves of Native Wildflowers Are Emerging at Columbus Park April 13, 2009

On Sunday, April 12, while birding in the woods beside Columbus Park lagoon, we discovered the emerging leaves of native wildflowers. We found the first Mayapple leaves we’ve seen this spring:

There were several stages of opening Mayapple leaves. Soon we'll see flower buds below some of the leaf umbrellas.

There were several stages of opening Mayapple leaves. Soon we'll see flower buds below some of the leaf umbrellas.

And also the first Trout Lily leaves:

The purplish marked Trout Lily leaves had emerged, but no sign of flower buds so far. This plant is also called.....

The purple-marked Trout Lily leaves had emerged, but no sign of flower buds so far.

We had seen Cutleaf Toothwort blooming earlier this spring at Clinton Lake in central Illinois, so we weren’t surprised to see both leaves and flower buds at Columbus Park:

Cut-leaved Toothwort leaves and buds, Columbus Park, Illinois, April 12, 2009.

Toothwort flowers look like tiny white teeth when they first open, and the leaves look like they've been cut out by tiny scissors.

We also made a slightly more ominous discovery. Back on March 23rd, we showed photos of a cultivated flower which we identified as Siberian Squill, but others know as Scilla (its scientific name). On Sunday we discovered that this garden flower has escaped its intended bounds and invaded the woods beside Columbus Park lagoon. Because this also happens elsewhere, Scilla is listed in the Global Compendium of Weeds and on some web documents about invasive plants. Some folks who track invasive species suggest that Scilla may not harm native wildflowers, like Trout Lily and Mayapple. But another wrote, “the jury is still out whether this is a harmless garden escapee or something to worry about.” So, we’ll keep an eye on the Park’s woodland Scilla this spring and beyond.

 

Two Kinds of Tulips, plus a Mamma Maple April 8, 2009

Filed under: Cultivated Flowers,Plants,Seasons,Spring,Trees — saltthesandbox @ 12:48 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Yesterday I found my first Tulip flower of the spring. Today I found many more on my walk through south Oak Park:

Backlit by sunlight, these Tulips glowed.

Backlit by sunlight, these Tulip flowers glowed.

Another flower opened wide to show the six parts that make pollen, plus a three-sided female part.

Another Tulip opened wide to show the six parts that make pollen, plus a three-sided female part.

(For the names of flower reproductive structures, go here or here.)

In Rehm Park I found a completely different plant that bears the “tulip” name. The Tulip Tree is a magnolia, planted in these parts but native farther south in Illinois. This year’s buds were opening; the dry remnants of last year’s fruits also graced the tree:

This year's opening buds are below, the dry husks of last year's fruits are above.

This year's opening buds are below, the dry husks of last year's fruits are above.

If you can’t wait for our Oak Park tree to bloom, go here to see Tulip Tree flowers. You’ll see dozens of male and female parts in each flower, compared with the six male and single female part in the garden Tulip (as shown two photos above).

Speaking of sex, ten days ago I showed the male flowers of a Red Maple (go here to see the complete post):

The male flowers of Red Maple explode off the twigs.

The male flowers of Red Maple explode off the twigs.

Today, also in Rehm Park, I found a female Red Maple in bloom:

The female flowers are not as flamboyant as the male, but they they add a reddish glow to the tree.

The female flowers are not as flamboyant as the male, but they add a reddish glow to the entire tree.

Pollen-catching filaments protrude from the female flowers. They gather pollen that your nose misses.

Pollen-catching filaments protrude from female Red Maple flowers, gathering pollen that your nose misses.

These male and female trees are separated by more than half a mile, but maple pollen travels easily on spring breezes. (That’s why it’s being detected at the pollen counting station in Melrose Park.)

 

Yesterday, Snow; Today, a Tulip Flower…and Dandelions April 7, 2009

Filed under: Animals,Bugs,Cultivated Flowers,Plants,Seasons,Spring — saltthesandbox @ 4:31 pm
Tags: , , , ,

This morning temperatures dipped below freezing, yet I still found my first Tulip flower of spring. It was in the Oak Park Arts District, near the Eastgate Cafe:

The lone, yellow Tulip flower was not the classic shape.

The lone Tulip flower was so yellow it almost hurt my eyes.

Because the flower petals were splayed open, I could look inside.

Because the flower petals were splayed open, I could look inside.

I counted six parts that make the sticky Tulip pollen, plus a three-horned female part to receive pollen.

I counted six parts that make sticky Tulip pollen, plus a three-horned female part.

If you want to learn what botanists call these reproductive structures, go here or here.

Further west on Harrison Street, there were more yellow blossoms:

Yes, Dandelions are back, too -- another sure sign of spring.

Yes, Dandelions are back -- another sure sign of spring. The dark dots on the flowers are tiny pollen-carrying bees.

I know some folks don’t like them, but Dandelions are fine with me.

Note added April 23, 2009: Part of our Earth Day celebration at Wonder Works was digging for bugs in their organic garden. In addition to enjoying the bugs, our two- and three-year-old visitors appreciated the Dandelion flowers that dotted the garden. It was great that they could pick them — most kids don’t get to pick flowers these days.

Also, today I found a family that’s on a crusade to Save the Dandelions, rather than destroy them. I’m with them on that!

 

Forsythia in Bloom! April 2, 2009

Filed under: Cultivated Flowers,Plants,Seasons,Spring — saltthesandbox @ 11:05 am
Tags: , , , ,

There’s one house in south Oak Park where spring flowers bloom early, from Gail’s birthday Daffodils to today’s Forsythia:

These are the first Forsythia flowers we've seen this spring in south Oak Park.

These are the first Forsythia flowers we've seen this spring in south Oak Park.

If you need a dose of Forsythia flowers to get you through the week, try the Oak Park Arts District on Harrison Street, near Bead in Hand, but on the north side of the street:

There are lots of other flowers in bloom near the Forsythia, including some small blue and white ones I didn't recognize.

There were lots of other flowers in bloom near the Forsythia, including some small blue and white ones I didn't recognize. (We'll go back later with Ethan's camera to try to get some close ups.)