Wild Native Bee Hive in a Catalpa Tree

A fellow we know is a farmer from way back. He knows the value of having bees around the farm and was proud to show us one of his natural bee hives. We didn’t get to see the actual beehive as it was deep inside the trunk of a large catalpa tree.

A big limb had broken off at the base for whatever reason and that made a hole into the trunk. Honey bees have been living in that tree for many years. Even though the big catalpa tree is right next to the house, our farmer friend found a way to live with the bees. Smart, I say. When his red raspberries are in flower, and that won’t be long now, they will be pollinated for sure.

Honey bees made a home in this old catalpa tree trunk.
Honey bees made a home in this old catalpa tree trunk. Photo taken 25 April 2011.

Letting the wild native bees stay where they are practically guarantees that the fruit trees will be pollinated. Another rotten old tree harbors a second colony of bees a hundred meters away. The walnut trees in that area will likely benefit from that beehive.

After hearing about colony collapse disorder and the plight of beehives in the USA, it’s great to see that at least some bees seem to be doing well.

Skunk Cabbage at the Spring-Fed Stream

The trees on our ridge-top are just starting to make their leaves so the hillsides still look bare. The spring-fed streams look more alive with the skunk cabbage developing their huge green leaves.

The skunk cabbage has already bloomed for the year and is one of the only noticeable green things out here. No doubt this creek was much higher after the deluge of rain the other day.

A sunfish scooted away as we approached the edge of a pool in this little stream.

Skunk cabbage growing next to a spring-fed stream that trickles through the hollow between hills of the mountain ridge.
Skunk cabbage growing next to a spring-fed stream that trickles through the hollow between hills of the mountain ridge. Photo taken 21 April 2011.
A downstream look at the babbling brook.
A downstream look at the babbling brook. Photo taken 21 April 2011.
Skunk cabbage leaves are already bigger than a dinner plate and they'll get bigger yet. Note how the leaves start out curled up like a cigar.
Skunk cabbage leaves are already bigger than a dinner plate and they'll get bigger yet. Note how the leaves start out curled up like a cigar. Photo taken 21 April 2011.

In this lowland area there were ferns beginning to roll out their fronds and other small plants growing green. Brambles and garlic mustard are some of the first plants to really get growing at this time of year.

Skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, is surprisingly edible. Crushing a leaf releases a skunky odor, so you wouldn’t think to eat this stuff. Eating a raw leaf will cause intense burning in the mouth because of the presence of calcium oxalate crystals. Drying the leaves or rootstock thoroughly will remove this property. Dried leaves can be reconstituted for use in soups or stews or used as a cooked green. According to¬†Peterson’s Edible Wild Plants Guide, the rootstock can be dried and pounded to make a flour that is somewhat cocoa-like.