Monday, June 27, 2011

Eastern Hognose Snake

Eastern Hognose Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)

Sophie, our cat, first spotted it and then Kookie, our boxer/lab, ran over and began her "snake" bark. Kookie is scared of snakes and would not be any closer than a foot from it. I went into the house to grab my camera.

With Kookie still barking, the snake had spread its head and neck and gazed toward me, hizzing all the while. That's how I knew it was a hognose. From this angle, it's hard to see the characteristic upturned snout which gives the snake its name. He uses the snout to dig up buried toads--plenty of those around here. This snake looked over 3o inches long--close to the mature size.

This photo was taken with the flash--hence the more yellowish tone. I had seen a hognose many years ago but that one was colored much differently--much lighter. So, it's hard to identify by color although the markings are similar. The hissing and flared head behavior was a dead giveaway for the hognose. That is how I knew this snake was all bark and no bite. Back then, I was so scared I backed off without getting a photo. My husband went out and moved it with a stick--it flipped over and played dead, another characteristic of the snake.

But I didn't want to bother the snake. I grabbed Kookie by her collar and led her back to the house. She did not object--thankful that I had saved her from the snake encounter. When I went back, the snake was gone.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Catalpa Memories

My honey bees have been flying southeast high into sky. I wondered where they might be foraging for nectar and pollen since not much is blooming nectar-wise for them. As I drove down our road, I noticed several Catalpa trees blooming. When I stopped to inspect, I heard the familiar sound of pollinators. While I only saw a few bumble and carpenter bees on the lower branches, I was sure honey bees were at the top of the tree. These trees are located about a half-mile in a straight beeline southeast of my bee hives.

Common Catalpa (Catalpa bignonioides)

For years I have driven by these trees and not paid much attention to them. I am glad my bees make me notice these and other flowers. These trees are not native to this area, originating in the Gulf Coast of the United States. The trees were probably planted as fence posts (Trees and Shrubs, Peterson Field Guide). The guide also states that they produce "catawba worms" that fishermen use as bait.

As I photographed the tree and flowers, memories of my childhood came back to me. A large Catalpa tree grew along the fence of our front yard where I grew up in a town outside St. Louis, Missouri (now a suburb). My sisters and I would put the Catalpa flowers in our hair. Later when the large seed pods appeared, we sat in a circle under the tree and tried to smoke the "cigars" or long seed pods.

On another note, I photographed these flowers this morning and am wondering what they are. The bell-shaped flowers are about an inch or so long and quite showy.

Purple Clematis (Clematis Verticillaris)

They are growing on a vine with three leaflets with simple leaves. Does anyone know what this vine is?

Mystery solved by Randy: It's Purple Clematis, a native vine that is in the buttercup family. My Peterson guide pictures the flower a little differently--no curls on the end of the sepals so I guess that's why I missed it. Anyway, I am glad to have another native plant and it's close to the area where I discovered the orchid this spring.