Saturday, May 31, 2008

Birdfeeder Treefrog

Yeah, I know, it sounds wierd, but we found this treefrog sitting right in our birdfeeder. This birdfeeder was a gift to my Mom and it's meant to keep out squirrels (works pretty well) but apparently it looked attractive to this little guy. This is either a Cope's Gray Treefrog (Hyla versicolor) or a Gray Treefrog (Hyla chrysoscelis). These species are visually indistinguishable, so the only way to tell them apart is by listening to their calls. According to FrogWatch, Cope's Gray Treefrog trills a bit faster than the other. We didn't hear this guy utter even one weak "croak". So, we're still not sure what he was, but he stuck around for about 2 days and then either left or got eaten. Welcome to the Jungle!

He's down there in the lower left corner.

The Sunshine State

I took a quick, but enjoyable trip to Florida a few weekends ago for the Florida Native Plant Society annual conference. They are a really amazing group that promotes the use of native plants in the state, does research, raises awareness with legistlatures about the benefits of using native plants in landscaping, and lots of other really great stuff. One of my favorite parts of being a member is going on field trips. There are always a few amateur naturalists and botanists (like myself) as well as some very knowledgable botanists who take their time to stop every 2 feet to identify and describe a plant. The things you can learn on these trips are amazing! The last day of the conference was field-trip-day! YAY! I took a kayak trip on Coral Creek, a tributary to the tidal estuary, Placida Harbor, and straight out into the Gulf of Mexico. Here are pictures from the adventure:

These are pictures of the red mangroves. Red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) have prop roots which not only reduce wave action and erosion, but also serve as important habitat for estuary nurseries. In these nurseries, baby fish, oysters, barnacles, crabs, seahorses and lots of other species are protected from the larger fish lurking in deeper waters.

Marine biologist, Jack Taylor, guided us from Grande Tours outdoor center along the tidal estuary. The Grande Tours center is very cute and the people are friendly and very knowledgable!
Oh, and I thought you'd be interested to know that red mangroves also have medicinal uses:

  • gnarles of the bark are used to treat throat cancer
  • ashes or bark infusions are used to treat skin disorders and sores

Friday, May 30, 2008

Jack in the What?

Look...Jack's in the pulpit!! Nope, I'm not at church. This time I was wandering beneath some pines and came upon this rather large Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

According to the Veterinary Medicine Library at the University of Illinois, the Jack-in-the-pulpit is poisonous to animals. The corm (i.e. the underground plant stem that looks like a tuber and stores starches/energy for the plant) of the plant contains calcium oxalate crystals, possibly an alkaloid, and volatile acrid compounds. Apparently, it is "gathered, dried and sold by drug collectors". Some of the lovely side effects:

  • intense burning and biting sensation in the mouth, throat, and stomach (probably from the calcium oxalate crystals)
  • inflammation of the stomach and intestine
  • difficulty of breathing due to swelling of mouth and throat with many plants, even though part of it is poisonous, if done differently, it's edible...very tricky! IF the plant root/corm is properly dried or cooked it can be eaten. Native Americans used it to treat sore eyes, rheumatism, bronchitis, and snakebites. Oh, and something else fun that Native Americans used it for - to induce sterility.

According to one website - "It is reported that they also used it diagnostically by dropping a seed in a cup of water and if the seed went around four times clockwise the patient would recover and if less the patient would die." - I think that's really cool! What a great way to diagnose people. Plus the seeds (which are out in Fall) are a beautiful red color, so this would be a very suspenseful tradition!

Dogwood Daze

Wooops, looks like I've missed May completely. Sorry about that! I've been taking lots of experimental pictures with the new camera (Canon 350D), so I'll start posting them more often.

This Cornus kousa, creatively named the Kousa dogwood, was found at Hopewell Cancer Center in Towson, MD. It's a beautiful tree in the Cornaceae family with these really neat looking flowers and leaves. It is native to Japan. I think the flowers and leaves look like they are made of origami. Not sure what that leaf tip is called, but the way it does a subtle twist at the end makes it quite beautiful.

Here's one more link to info about this cool tree.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Darling little St. Michael's, MD

St. Michael's in springtime. This is a really cute little town on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. I worked here for a summer at a company called Environmental Concern. This is a very quaint tourist town with some whimsical sites such as these: