Category Archives: Exploring Nature

They are coming….

In the year 2021 there will be an entomological (fancy word that means pertaining to insects) event that only occurs every 17 years; the year of the Cicada.

There are different kinds of cicadas and Brood X is the species that emerges every 17 years. Cicadas are a group of insects that live their growth development years underground sucking tree roots for what seems like a long period of time trying to complete their four life cycles.

It all begins with a song. The male cicada has a structure near its abdomen called a tymbal organ which vibrates and produces sound to attract the female cicada. She responds with a clicking sound of her wings. The amazing thing is out of all the cicadas present (hundreds to thousands) these two only hear each other, pretty cool huh? They meet on a tree limb, mate and create a nymph. The nymph which is the size of a piece of rice granule, chews the leaf it is placed on then falls to the ground and buries deep into the ground and feeds on this same tree’s roots for 17 years until it reaches it’s fourth and final stage, before emerging above ground to start the process all over again. They only emerge when the earth reaches close to 64 degrees in the 17th year and by the billions! They will climb out the ground place themselves on the tree and crawl out their exoskeletons leaving them behind.

In the United States the Brood X generation will take over forests from Tennessee to New York. They will not harm the forest or the trees in your areas so do not be alarmed. But why do they emerge and why in periods of 17 years?  Scientists believe it is the ultimate survival of the fittest. With so many emerging at one time their predators will become overwhelmed with feeding on them and create such fullness in the belly’s of animals and birds that they leave them alone, allowing them to mate again and repeat their unique life cycle. This emergence only last for 2-4 weeks before they die off. Their presence in these weeks helps to strengthen the growth of plants and trees, and alter the population of many birds. They can even be eaten by humans in some fun ways, dipped in chocolate, stir fried, cooked into pizza, baked within banana bread and rhubarb pie. (Newsweek April 2021) You might say no thanks but they are full of protein and compared to the same amount of beef sources raised in one acre of land they have more!

Not all of us will experience the cicada this year since they may not emerge in your locale so if you desire to hear them you may need to travel to another area to experience their symphony of mating calls. For a species of animal to be created, only to be present every 17 years is truly a mystery and evidence of God’s amazing power to create all things big and small. Hopefully, you will be able to delight in this wonder and marvel at the unique way in which the cicada preserves its generations to come.

Till next time, listen for a cicada, get your hands dirty and be still in your gardens to observe the beauties of nature.

Erythronium americanum

Hello Garden Friends and Happy Spring!

We have been christened with LOTS of liquid sunshine in April, violent storms and rollercoaster weather temperatures. And yes all of these April showers will no doubt bring May flowers. As a result of all this rain and snow we had (real winter this year YAY) I noticed the spring ephemerals are quite abundant.  And on a woodland walk with my Momma I noticed this beauty below: 

This is, Erythronium Americanum “Yellow Trout Lily” it was showing itself in mass with such wonder, it made me venture deeper into the woods to get closer and seriously think about going back for a few to put in my own woodland garden; at the time I did not have the essentials to dig them up properly, LOL!

The beautiful yellow flowers are like little decorative showy hats on a spring maiden as if she were nodding her head to bring attention to herself while wearing a dark brown dress with spots upon. It is as if she danced in a florescent spring puddle that splashed upon her woodland garment, just SPECTACULAR. They make me smile down into my soul.  You will find them amongst the dead leaves that are now brown and crunchy and slowly being taken over by Spring’s new life emerging. They are wonderful to see on the forest floor snuggled in deep and awaiting someone to just notice them, well we sure did, and it was a treat!

This beauty is in the Lily Family (Liliaceae) and as mentioned it is a spring ephemeral (early plant emerging at the onset of Spring or Vernal Equinox) so it will only be present for about 2-3 weeks in the season after it blooms. It’s common name Trout Lily is given because its leaf markings resemble that of the skin of a brown or brook trout.  It prefers dapplied sunlight to medium shade and loamy soil with leaf litter or decaying organic matter. Most of its growth and development occurs before the trees fully develop their vernal leaves. It is a native wildflower and adapts to the shade of deciduous trees. But be patient with this beauty it takes about 8 years before individual plants will flower in a typical woodland setting.  They enjoy being in the company of Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) and American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) trees.  Their flowers mainly attract bees but like other woodland flowers its seeds are distributed by ants who are attracted to their food appendages. And because the leaves are small and inconspicuous the white tailed deer seem to only browse over them plus their mottled leaf pattern helps disguise them from this animal and other mammalian herbivores who lack color vision.  So the next time you take a woodland stroll or forest hike this season keep an eye out for these little gems and just stop, be still and enjoy the beauty they exude.

Till next time, get your hands dirty, walk barefoot in the grass and exhale deep in the solace of your garden.  Take care!