During a recent trip to a restaurant on King’s Bay in Crystal River, Florida, I walked out on the dock where boat-tailed grackles were having their dinner too. I watched them strike the water to snatch small baitfish from the water and perch on the posts and railings of the dock where these birds and devoured the sushi. Some grackles sat on a rope above a small raft of sea debris where they found other tasty morsels to eat. This species is omnivorous eating a wide variety of food including seeds, berries, insects, frogs and mollusks. I have seen them wade is shallow water to eat the small fish and tadpoles from the water, but it the first time I have observed them actually fishing from the air. Nature reveals amazing things when you take the time to see them.
The Plant That Escaped the Garden
Native to Europe, north Africa and areas in Asia, the lesser celandine was introduced into the American garden landscape in the 1900’s for its beautiful shiny yellow flowers and glossy green kidney shaped leaves. The plant adapted so well to our gardens that it escaped into nearby native woodlands where it formed thick mats of vegetation competes with our native wildflowers. Because it grows so early in the spring it shades out native violets, spring beauties and trilliums so some consider it an invasive wildflower.
The Golden Wildflower
Throughout the eastern U.S. and in some places in the mid-west, the golden ragwort paints fields and sunlit woodland openings with splashes of golden yellow daisy-like blossoms. Sometimes it is confused with dandelions and hawkweeds by novices, but upon closer examination its 8 to 13 yellow petals, heart shaped basil leaves and clusters of blossoms helps to identify it. When you see these flowers, bend down, get a closer look and enjoy the beauty that this dainty yellow wildflower offers.
The Non-Native Beauty
In my daughter’s Maryland spring backyard, I discovered a dainty blue wildflower growing in the shade cast by trees and in the shadow of a wooden fence that borders her property. With scalloped leaves and four petaled flowers, the slender speedwell thrives in the moist soils here.
A non-native, this plant traveled from Europe to North America and became established in my daughter’s backyard. Sitting near a patch of these pretty blue blossoms, I watched honey bees and bumble bees buzz from one flower to another for this plant’s sweet nectar. Despite being alien, it supports a variety of native bees and butterflies and that is fine with me.
The Undesirable Wildflower
It is spring in the U.S and millions of acres of manicured lawns are greening up yet much to the disdain of homeowners billions of yellow dandelions litter the green landscape. People spend millions of dollars and countless hours attempting to rid their lawns of these intrusive “weeds”.
However, this wildflower was not aways an unwanted pest. It was a highly regarded wildflower in Europe where it was treasured for its medicinal uses, nutritional value and aesthetic beauty. Colonists brought this plant with them when they came to the Americas because they viewed dandelions as a valuable plant not a weed.
Dandelions are also prized by bees, butterflies and other pollinators for its sweet nectar. Examining dandelion flowers in my Maryland daughter’s yard, I see honey bees buzzing from one flower to another to sip its nectar. Deer, rabbits and other herbivores eat this nutritious “weed” and many birds will feast on its seeds.
You my feel cursed by this plant, but as far as wildlife are concerned it is a blessing.