Triangle Vine Weed with Cool Blue Berries

The coolest looking blue berries drew my attention to this weedy plant the first time I saw it when taking a walk near the Conestoga Creek. I was reminded of that Autumn day trip to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania a number of years ago when I recently spotted the same kind of plant scrambling along a cement bridge in Snyder County, PA.

Tear Thumb Vine Scrambles Up and Over the Bridge
Tear Thumb Vine Scrambles Up and Over the Bridge
(Photos taken 25 August 2017. Click on any image for a larger view.)

Right away I could see its vine-like nature and that its leaves were triangular. The vine had climbed from a stream bank up and over the top of the bridge and down onto the guard rail.

The vine appeared to be growing well and it seemed to be liking its sunny spot very much as many small white flowers were present.

The Noticeably Triangle Leaves of Tear Thumb
The Noticeably Triangle Leaves of Tear Thumb

Triangular leaves and pink stems with thumb-tearing spikes. Don’t try to weed out this plant without a sturdy pair of gloves on your hands!

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Turk’s Cap Lily Blooms by the Red Covered Bridge

Driving around the countryside you have to keep your eyes open because you never know what you’ll see. Recently, we saw a momma deer crossing the road with her two fawns, a few other deer here and there, a bald eagle sitting up high in a tree, and for me a new plant. One that I hadn’t seen before in real life.

We slowed down to look at a covered bridge and then stopped to take a few pictures. Right there next to the berm that used to be the old road leading to the bridge were a few blooming lilies. They were about 30 feet away from the bank of the stream that the bridge spanned.

Orange Lilies As Seen From Red Bridge Road
Orange Lilies As Seen From Red Bridge Road

I recognized the Turk’s Cap Lily, Lilium superbum, from a distance, or at least I thought that’s what it was by the way the orange petals were swept back. I needed a closer look to be sure of the identification. What was the greenery like and how did the flowers look close up?

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Black and Yellow Striped Caterpillars Love Blueberry Leaves

Last week the yellow-necked caterpillar made a return! We hadn’t seen these voracious caterpillars for a couple of years then outta nowhere they’re seen huddled together on an almost naked blueberry branch.

Yellowneck Caterpillars Gorging Themselves on Blueberry Leaves
Yellowneck Caterpillars Gorging Themselves on Blueberry Leaves
(Photos taken 13 August 2017. Click on any image to see a larger view.)

Take note of the thin yellow segment just behind the black head. That’s how it got its name, Yellownecked Caterpillar.

If I just let them go on eating, I wonder how much of a single blueberry bush they could eat? Funny, when I noticed them these black and yellow caterpillars were huddled in a group on a bare stem. Do they eat at night? Or were they just finishing their meal when I happened upon them?

This morning I see another bare stem on a blueberry bush so I’ll have to go out with some clippers to prevent more damage.

One cool thing about the yellownecked caterpillar, Datana ministra, is its habit of curling both ends of its body when threatened. It’s a defensive posture that they make, but I’m wondering what other caterpillars do this?

Yellowneck Caterpillars Make a U-Shape When Disturbed
Yellowneck Caterpillars Make a U-Shape When Disturbed

If you see these caterpillars on your ornamental trees, shade trees or fruit trees, shake the branch they’re on and they’ll show you who’s the biggest!

What kind of butterfly makes the yellow-necked caterpillar?

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Swallow-Tailed Kite Spotted in Pennsylvania

I saw a new bird this week! It’s exciting because I don’t often get that experience of seeing one new to me. Funny, I don’t keep a bird list, but when you spot one that you haven’t seen before, you just know it.

While driving to a nearby Amish lady’s farmer stand to pick up some corn and tomatoes I noticed this large bird flying low. It was doing some acrobatics or maybe loop-t-loos and that made me wonder what kind of seagull is that?

This bird was about the size of a seagull, but we’re not near the ocean. Sure, we see seagulls in autumn sometimes and definitely in winter, but in the summer not so much.

Its tail was forked and the wings pointed and I was pretty sure it was some kind of kite, but I’d never seen a kite in real life. I’d have to run home and check my bird book, I like Peterson’s Eastern Birds, to see the images and descriptions to be sure.

The one thing I was totally sure of was that I had never seen one before. Cool, a new bird!

I stopped the car in the middle of that country road and glanced in the rear view mirror as I reached for my camera. Not much traffic to worry about in these parts so I pushed the lever into “P” to park for a minute.

As I watched the bird criss-cross the road and fly over the cornfields on either side it didn’t seem to be bothered that I was there.

The photos could be a lot better but you can still tell what it is…a Swallow-Tailed Kite!

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Gardening Help from Audubon Native Plants Database

In my reading I came across this link to Audubon’s Native Plant Database. Where, for the mere mention of your zip-code and an email address, you can find the native plants for your area that will help to bring birds to your yard.

Goldfinch on a Purple Coneflower
Goldfinch on a Purple Coneflower

Cool thing is, the image on that page was of a male goldfinch standing atop a purple coneflower, Echinacea.

We’re treated to this site every summer and fall season. As the purple flowers mature and the cones grow taller the finches visit more often. They dine on the seeds whenever they’re deemed ready. I really do get enjoyment seeing the brilliantly colored birds carefully standing on the spiky seed heads to get at their lunch.

We have a perfect view from the kitchen window to spy on them being so busy. If the window is open, you can hearing them chattering to one another!

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Coltsfoot Flowers Next to the Creek

When it’s raining or even on a cloudy day you’ll miss out seeing the sunny yellow blossoms of Coltsfoot. It blooms in Eastern North America in early Spring each April.

Coltsfoot is one of my favorite Spring Ephemeral flowers because it’s such a bright happy color when it’s in bloom and everything else is still old winter drab.

It’s also fun to show people that it’s not a dandelion! Driving past the coltsfoot that bloom next to a country road most people probably do think it to be dandelions in flower. Neither would be noticed on the cloudy days because their flowers will be closed up tight.

Flowering Coltsfoot Near the Spillway
Flowering Coltsfoot Near the Spillway

During the first week of April coltsfoot was blooming in all its glory along the creek near the spillway on the Mill Race Trail at Little Buffalo State Park in Newport, PA. I had never seen such a display as I was treated to that day.

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Early Bloomers At Millerstown Park

Took the puppy on her first trip to a local park. It was precious seeing her sniffing and tasting her first dandelions and violets!

Alas, no extra hand to carry a camera for snapping some flower photos. She’s too little yet and needs my full attention. The pictures would have been a complete blur.

I tried to remember the dozen flowering plants we saw. Here they are in the approximate order we found them as we walked from the parking lot and followed the Juniata River flowing south.

  • dandelion
  • violets, dark purple
  • purple dead nettle
  • Pennsylvania bittercress
  • spring beauty
  • lesser celandine
  • garlic mustard
  • bluebells, mertensia
  • chickweed
  • ground ivy
  • trout lily, a single plant
  • speedwell

The folks who manage the natural areas here could use a lesson or two in the value of preserving native plants. Much too much garlic mustard and lesser celandine was present in the places adjacent to the river where bluebells should be swaying in the breeze.

Over the past few years too many trees have been cut down disrupting the habitats of the native plants, not to mention the little critters who may have called this small stretch of nature home. Disappointing.

After our walk we took a little drive down River Road to see the Spring blooming trees. Beautiful flowering almond and cherry trees scattered among a large number of forsythia shrubs brought color to many spaces and accented the daffodils and narcissus that were blooming profusely.

Another of my favorite bloomers at this time was in all its glory, the redbud tree. It’s so beautiful to see its purple at the edge of the woodlands. Trees are still bare of leaves at this point.

This weekend would be a great time to investigate what’s blooming around your neighborhood. The colors of Spring are everywhere!

Millerstown Park is less than a mile south of the town square and the Route 322 exit for Millerstown, Pennsylvania.

Early April Bloomers at Little Buffalo State Park

Spring has come to South-central PA at last. Flowers will be picking up speed in opening their blooms this week with the forecasted warm weather.

In early April the spicebush is one of our first native plants to bloom.

Spicebushes full of bright lemony-yellow blooms getting ready to burst open. The first few flowers had already blossomed in the sunshine.

Many Spicebush Blooms Ready to Open
Many Spicebush Blooms Ready to Open

Only a handful of different plants were seen to be blooming or nearly so at Little Buffalo State Park on April 5, 2017, including:

Low-growing chickweed and spring beauty both have white flowers with five petals, but they look quite different from one another.

Chickweed and Spring Beauty Bloom Side-by-Side
Chickweed (left) and Spring Beauty (right) Bloom Side-by-Side

Chickweed is smaller with its elongated and deeply cleft petals, which make it appear to have 10 petals.

Spring beauty flower petals are much larger and their pink anthers at the stamen tips really stick out.