Mystery Solved: Wild Ginger Seedpods Spotted

I was weeding—the Oxalis seed bank in my yard seems endless—so I was poking around under edges. When I got to the wild ginger, I felt something a little gooey, so I peeked. Not slugs. Whew. It was a ruptured seedpod, complete with some seeds. I am surprised to see that there are still flowers as well, as these plants start blooming in early May.

The open wild ginger seedpod shows six compartments with light olive green glossy seeds attached in double rows to the dividing membranes near the center of the pod.
Wild ginger seedpod, showing the seeds. Photographed on June 24, 2018.

According to the US Forest Service, wild ginger seeds “have a little oily food gift attached to the seed; this appendage is called an elaiosome. The elaiosomes attract ants that carry the seeds off to their underground home where they consume the tasty food and leave the seed to germinate.” That probably accounts for the gooey feeling.

There are definitely ants living near the wild ginger, including a nest of the same tiny little ants I wrote about in Mass Migration on a Tiny Scale.

The plant is also an alternate host for the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly—a beautiful blue swallowtail.

Mass Migration on a Tiny Scale

I was wandering around with my coffee this morning, when I noticed what looked like a big smear on the driveway. It looked like a lot of spilled coffee grounds, so it warranted a closer look. 

Black ants en masse, crossing concrete. The overall effect is of coarsely ground coffee dropped in a thick line about 2 inches wide that follows a seam to a crack in the concrete. A lighter smear further on is also comprised of ants, more widely spaced.
Ants migrating across the driveway. Photographed on June 24, 2018.

It turned out to be the teeny, tiniest black ants that live in this yard moving across the driveway. We have other, somewhat larger red and black ants that move around regularly, but I haven’t seen these little ants migrate before. Maybe their former home got too wet—we’ve had a good amount of rain in the last couple of days. Which direction were they going in? I’m not really sure—when I looked closely, they seem to be milling around. I could not stay long enough to figure out which way they were going.

By the time I got back, they were gone, so I am sure they are safely underground setting up housekeeping in their new spot.

More Wildlife in the Yard

One morning recently, I opened the back door to go sit outside with my coffee, and found chipmunks racing back and forth, a young bunny who pelted for a hedge, a baby robin who had become far more respectable looking in the past week—his feathers have all come in—and a red squirrel jumping up and down on the neighbor’s fence because of a black squirrel who was fussing at a fox squirrel about something else—probably the neighbor’s cat, who was sitting in his kitchen window watching the proceedings with great interest. Continue reading “More Wildlife in the Yard”

Two Plants With Barely Overlapping Schedules

It’s quite remarkable that two perennial plants can coexist right next to each other, but barely overlap in their above-ground time. The two I want to focus on today are Indian pinks and Dutchman’s breeches. Back in mid-May, many spring ephemera were either blooming or done, but there among them were the Indian pinks, just breaking ground.

From left to right: barely showing at the left edge, twinleaf; pointing to this post’s stars are the bright green Iris cristata; the two small clumps of new chartreuse growth are Indian pinks; and the blue-green feathery foliage belongs to the Dutchman’s breeches. Photographed on May 10, 2018.

Continue reading “Two Plants With Barely Overlapping Schedules”

A Baby Picture

The robins built a nest at my neighbors’ house in the crook that attaches the downspout to the gutter. It seems like just a couple of weeks ago that we were looking at cute, fuzzy heads bobbling frantically above the edge of their nest with bills agape, wanting worms.

My neighbor mentioned a couple of days ago that the nest seemed to be empty, and she wanted to clean up around it—they had created the kind of mess babies are best at.

Meanwhile, the parental activity level was getting more frenetic in my yard, and I have been hearing the frantic calls of famished fledglings. I ran across one of the babies while deadheading.

Photograph of a fledgling robin showing juvenal markings.
A fledgling robin, parked in the oakleaf hydrangea by a hunting parent. Those feathers have not grown in fully yet. Photographed on June 6, 2018.

Admittedly the photograph is not as sharp as it could be, but if I had stood there fiddling around, it would be a photograph of an empty perch recently used by a fledgling robin.