Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Summary of the Year

video

As the video Google made covered this past year quite nicely (and I don't have the ability to edit it), I thought I may as well share not just the video, but the relevant posts in close to the correct order. Please note that there are some missing as I've yet to write them. The first two are posts from Google+ while the rest are ones I've done this past year here on the blog.
Here is to another year of Nature Facts and Photography! I'll see you all again in the New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Smooth Sumac

Smooth Sumac (winter), Rhus glabra
The dominant sumac of the Blackland Prairie in smooth sumac, and it is the only tree species native to all 48 contiguous states. It is a colony-forming, deciduous tree or shrub that can reach heights between 3 to 6 m (10 to 20 ft). The serrated leaflets are dark green with a whitish waxy coating on the lower surface which turn bright red in early autumn. The female plants of smooth sumac bloom clusters of yellow flowers during the summer months. It tolerates sun and some shade, drought, most soils, and can be found in prairies, roadsides, and woodlands as well as impossible slopes.

Cluster of sour berries during the month of December.
Many species of wildlife make use of smooth sumac, especially in winter. The flowers give way to a pyramidal cluster of red berries that persist throughput the winter months. These berries are consumed by a number of birds including bobwhite quails, wild turkey, ring-necked pheasant, dark-eyed juncos, brown thrashers, gray partridge, and ruffed grouse. The bark and the fruit are also known to be consumed by white-tailed deer, mule deer, and cottontail rabbits. Smooth sumac was also a widely used species among Native American tribes. The sour fruits were consumed raw or made into a drink similar to lemonade. A root and leaf tea were used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, and ulcers. Raw young sprouts were used in salads, blossoms in a mouthwash for teething by the Chippewa, and leaves mixed with tobacco for smoking. The fruits were also used for red dyes while the inner bark and roots made for a yellow dye.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Four-Nerve Daisy

Four-nerve Daisy, Tetraneuris scaposa var. scaposa
A low, upright perennial, four-nerve daisy, or bitterweed, is one flower than can be found throughout the year, including winter, in the southern Great Plains, Colorado, and New Mexico with sufficient rainfall. It will grow from a solitary stem reaching heights of 30 cm (1 ft) with a clump base. Most often, four-nerve daisy can be found on rocky limestone slopes. It is heat and drought tolerant, but the flower gives off an unpleasant odor when picked.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Agave


Agave, Agave spp.
Agaves, or century plants, are rosette, perennial succulents. The leaves are spirally arranged to allow rain water to be collected and drained inward around the base of the stem. While it takes many years for agave to flower, it does not take a century, but rather somewhere between ten to thirty years.

Many offshoots to an extremely well-growing agave.
Most agave are generally clonal with vegetative offshoots to replace the parent plant after it dies.  Agaves are drought and heat tolerant. They can be found throughout the south as natives and introduced species. Although most species are pollinated by nectar-feeding bats,  some species rely on other pollinators such as hummingbirds and insects.

Removal of the emerging leaf bud allows sap to pool for a beverage
For at least 9,000 years, agaves have been a source of food and beverage for humans. In addition, they provided as a source of soap, fiber, medicine, and lances to many native tribes, and still do. Commercially valuable wax is a residue of fiber production, and sisal and henequen provide close to 80% of the world's hard fibers. The heart was baked for days to produce a fibrous meat which was then sometimes dried for use in cakes. One species has a taste comparative to sweet potato, molasses, and pineapple, and baked agave heart can sometimes still be found in Mexican markets. The young flower stalks were also consumed, but the most notable use is of the sap to produce mescal, pulque, and tequila.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pokeweed

Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana
Also known as pigeonberry, inkberry, American cancer, and American spinach, common pokeweed can be found throughout a huge portion of North America.  It is a large, native herbaceous perennial that can grow up to 3 m (10 ft) tall which blooms from May to October.  The fruits develop on bright red stems with the mature berries turning dark purple. Pokeweed can be found in areas of part shade along roadsides, open woods, damp thickets, pond margins, and fencerows. Although often considered a weed, pokeweed is very valuable to wildlife. The berries provide as a source of food for many mammals and birds, especially mockingbirds, catbirds, bluebirds, and mourning doves. Humans have also been known to consume pokeweed, but only with proper preparation as pokeweed is highly toxic and can cause death.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Texas Sage

Texas Sage, Leucophyllum frutescens
Also known as cenizo, Texas ranger, barometer bush, and silverleaf, Texas sage is an evergreen shrub with gray leaves covered in silver hairs creating an ashy appearance. It is compact, averaging around 1 m (3 ft), but can reach heights up to 2.5 m (8 ft). It can tolerate sun and part shade in soil with good drainage. As a native, it is also extremely tolerant of heat and drought. Texas sage blooms intermittently over several months. Often the mass of blooms occur after a few summer showers or during significant soil moisture which is the reasoning behind the common name barometer bush. It serves as cover and nesting sites for many animals, and it is host to the caterpillars of the Calleta silkmoth and Theona Checkerspot.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wildlife Rehabilitation

Today marks the day that is becoming known as Giving Tuesday. Rather than do a whole new post today, I will link to previous ones last year on wildlife rehabilitation. In many, many places, there are far more animals in need than places that can take them. There is a reason the numbers are few, and there is a reason one needs to be certified and permitted to be a wildlife rehabilitator. Many of these individuals do this service on their own time and using their own money. If you're ever dropping off an injured animal to a wildlife rehabilitator, consider a donation to them as well, but remember that you don't have to wait until that moment. You can donate or aid most of them at any time.

Wildlife Rehabilitation: (Part One) (Part Two)
Texas Wildlife Rehabilitators: Listed by County