Thursday, September 8, 2016

Blue Cohosh

Blue Cohosh is a beautiful plant when the berries turn ripe in late summer. This was a large patch in the Great Smoky Mountains that covered a hillside. Noted for its medicinal properties it's roots are used to make various mixtures. “Cohosh” is from the Algonquin Indian word meaning "rough," and it refers to the appearance of the roots. The root is used to make medicine.
Blue cohosh is used for stimulating the uterus and starting labor; starting menstruation; stopping muscle spasms; as a laxative; and for treating colic, sore throat, cramps, hiccups, epilepsy, hysterics, inflammation of the uterus, and joint conditions.

In foods, the roasted seeds of blue cohosh are used as a coffee substitute.

How does it work?
It is thought that blue cohosh might have effects similar to the hormone estrogen. It also may narrow the vessels that carry blood to the heart that can decrease oxygen in the heart. Caulophyllum thalictroides, blue cohosh a species of Caulophyllum (family Berberidaceae), also called squaw root or papoose root, is a flowering plant in the Berberidaceae (barberry) family. It is a medium-tall perennial with blue berry-like fruits and bluish-green foliage. It has been used as a medicinal herb by American Indians. Many Native American tribes, and later European herbologists and mid-wives, would use this herb in conjunction with other herbs and fluids for abortive and contraceptive purposes.
From the single stalk rising from the ground, there is a single, large, three-branched leaf plus a fruiting stalk. The bluish-green leaflets are tulip-shaped, entire at the base, but serrate at the tip. Its species name, thalictroides, comes from the similarity between the large highly divided, multiple-compound leaves of Meadow-rue (Thalictrum) and those of Blue Cohosh.

It is found in hardwood forest of the eastern United States, and favors moist coves and hillsides, generally in shady locations, in rich soil. It grows in eastern North America, from Manitoba and Oklahoma east to the Atlantic Ocean.
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Blue Cohosh

Blue Cohosh

White Baneberry - "Dolls Eyes" Plants That Can Kill You!

Plants that can kill you! White Baneberry ripens in late August and eating only a few berries can induce cardiac arrest and death. Fortunately it has a rather creepy look about it with a characteristic black dot at the end of each white berry that gives it the name "Doll's Eyes" and should say "beware"! In very small quantities it has been used as a herbal remedy in the past by native Americans. Here is some more information:
White baneberry Facts
White baneberry is herbaceous plant that belongs to the buttercup family. It originates from the eastern parts of North America. White baneberry can be found in deciduous and mixed forests and dense thicket. It grows on the fertile, moist (but well-drained), acidic soil, in the partial shade. White baneberry is listed as endangered in Florida and vulnerable in New York due to over-exploitation of the wild plants. People cultivate white baneberry in ornamental purposes because of its decorative flowers and long-lasting berries.
Interesting White baneberry Facts:
White baneberry has erect, multi-branched stem that can reach 1.5 to 2 feet in height and 3 feet in width.
White baneberry produces large, thrice divided leaves (composed of three leaflets) with toothed edges. Leaves are green colored and alternately arranged on the stem.
White baneberry develops small white flowers arranged in the form of dense, globular clusters (raceme) at the end of the branches, above the leaves. Flowers contain both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers).
White baneberry blooms from April to June. Flowers emit rose-like fragrance which attracts small insects (such as European snout beetles) which are responsible for the pollination of this plant.
Fruit of white baneberry are white berries arranged on thick, red stalks. Fruit ripens during the summer and autumn and remains on the stem throughout the winter.
White baneberry propagates via seed and division of the root.
White baneberry is also known as "doll's eyes" because of its white berries with prominent black spot that look like eyes of porcelain dolls.
All parts of white baneberry (especially berries and root) are poisonous (contain cardiogenic toxins) and they should be avoided.
Typical signs of intoxication are nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, blisters in the mouth, burning sensation, confusion and headache. 2 to 6 baneberries contain enough toxin to induce cardiac arrest in children if they accidently swallow them. Luckily, berries has unpleasant, bitter taste and they are rarely consumed on purpose.
Common name "white baneberry" refers to the color of the fruit and high content of cardiogenic toxins in the berries (bane-berries).
Even though white baneberries are toxic for humans, birds can consume these berries without any visible side effects. Birds eliminate undigested seed via feces and facilitate dispersal of white baneberry in the wild.
Native Americans used root of white baneberry in treatment of menstrual cramps and symptoms of menopause and to alleviate cough, common cold and rheumatism.
Infusion made of leaves of white baneberry was used to stimulate secretion of milk in women in the past.
Native Americans used juice squeezed from the white baneberries as a source of poison.
White baneberry is perennial plant, which means that it can survive more than 2 years in the wild.

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White Baneberry -  "Dolls Eyes" Plant

Hummingbird Swing Perch

Ruby Throated Hummingbirds enjoy watching over their territory around feeders while "swinging" from this attractive Hummingbird Swing Perch. This is the Songbird Essentials SEHHHUMS Copper Hummingbird Swing from Amazon. Attractive, but a bit pricey at $12 - it works and looks good on a porch or deck. I like the wood and copper look. As you can see in the video there is no shortage of natural perches near the feeders so I was delighted to see this get used as much as it does. It tends to be used most often in the morning and early evening when the hummers are most active. 

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Hummingbird Swing Perch

Bald Faced Hornet Nest

Large Bald Faced Hornet nest in a tree with some nice bird calls in the background. These are dangerous hornets and they typically build their nests in trees in the wild and near houses so if one accidentally disturbs them while mowing or trimming trees you won't outrun them. The worker hornets here are diligently making the nest even bigger. When found away from any human habitation like this nest its best just to leave them alone as they are in fact quite beneficial by preying on other harmful insects - all in the balance of Nature. Interestingly, if you are quiet you can film them quite closely as here with a cell phone - they have guard hornets posted who are always on the lookout for anything threatening so best to give these nest a wide berth.

Dolichovespula maculata is a eusocial wasp of the cosmopolitan family Vespidae. Its colloquial names include the bald-faced hornet, bald hornet, white-faced hornet, white-tailed hornet, blackjacket, and bull wasp. This species is a yellowjacket wasp, not a true hornet (genus Vespa). Colonies contain 400 to 700 workers, the largest recorded colony size in its genus, Dolichovespula. It builds a characteristic hanging paper nest. Workers aggressively defend their nest by repeatedly stinging invaders.

Dolichovespula maculata is distributed throughout the United States and Southern Canada, but is most common in the southeastern United States. Males in this species are haploid and females are diploid. Worker females can therefore lay eggs which develop into males. Matricide might occur after sufficient workers have been raised and queen-destined eggs have been laid, in order to give workers a reproductive advantage. The sting hurts intensely when first stung and will get a bump but in a couple hours it will not be there.
Baldfaced hornets are distinguished from other yellowjackets by their white and black coloring. It has a white or "baldfaced" head, which is the source of its colloquial namesake. These wasps also have three white stripes at the end of their bodies. They are notably larger than other species of Dolichovespula, as adults average about 19 millimetres (0.75 in) in length. Queen and worker wasps have similar morphologies. However, workers are covered by small hairs while the queen remains hairless. Queens are always larger than workers in their colonies, though size distributions can vary in different nests and workers in one colony might be as large as a queen in a different one.

D. maculata create egg-shaped, paper nests up to 360 millimetres (14 in) in diameter and 580 millimetres (23 in) in length. Nests are layered hexagonal combs covered by a mottled gray paper envelope. Bald-Faced Hornets create this paper envelope by collecting and chewing naturally occurring fibers. The wood fiber mixes with their saliva to become a pulpy substance that they can then form into place.

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Bald Faced Hornet Nest

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sounds of Katydids and Crickets at Night

15 minutes of very loud, but soothing Katydid and Cricket sounds in the deep dark forest of the Great Smoky Mountains. If you close your eyes and meditate on the deep forest sounds of the night you can pick out three distinct sounds coming from three different insect groups. The background low steady sound is from thousands of forest crickets. These noises start soon after dark and build in intensity to the late night and then gradually taper off toward daybreak.
True Katydids are relatives of grasshoppers and crickets. They grow over two inches long and are leaf-green in color.

Katydids have oval-shaped wings with lots of veins. They resemble leaves.

True Katydids live in forests, thickets, or fields with lots of shrubs or trees. Katydids spend most of their time at the tops of trees where most of the leaves are.

Usually katydids are heard, but not seen.
Unlike grasshoppers and crickets, both male and female katydids make sounds. They rub their forewings (front wings) together to "sing" to each other. Katydid hear each other with ears on their front legs.

Breeding season is in late Summer and early Fall. Females will lay eggs on stems.

Eggs will hatch the following Spring into nymphs. Nymphs are young katydids not fully grown. Katydid nymphs eat and grow, molting their skin several times. Each time the nymph sheds its skin it looks more like an adult. Finally, after its last molt, the nymph has changed into an adult katydid.

True Katydids eat leaves of most deciduous (lose leaves in Fall) trees and shrubs, especially oaks.

Katydids can fly short distances when threatened, but they prefer to walk and climb. When they do fly, it is more of a downward flutter. If a katydid lands on the ground, it will walk to the nearest tree and climb.

Predators of True Katydids include birds, bats, spiders, frogs, snakes, and other insect-eaters.

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image source University of Florida

Sounds of Katydids and Crickets at Night

Squirrel Attacks Pileated Woodpecker and Steals Its Bugs

Gray Squirrel stakes out a female Pileated Woodpecker on three different days and waits until she has exposed bug infested wood with her powerful beak and then attacks - scaring off the woodpecker and then immediately begins to eat where the Pileated Woodpecker just exposed the rotting wood. It is either doing this to gain access to the tasty ant larvae under the bark or there is something about the wood such as minerals or "medicine" that the squirrel finds appealing. Although it is not uncommon for squirrels and woodpeckers to occasionally have a tussle I have never heard of or seen this unusual behavior before. Clearly the squirrel has learned to take advantage of the Pileated Woodpeckers hard work - no doubt for some nefarious purpose. This may go on all the time in dense cover like this its just that I was lucky to notice it on a stretch of says. Generally the big Woodies are rare visitors to the Backyard.

Squirrel Attacks Pileated Woodpecker

Petting A Praying Mantis - Extreme Close-Up

Making friends with a Praying Mantis hunting insects on the porch! These fascinating insects have personalities and unlike most insects seem to relate to humans and humans seem to instinctively sense their awareness and do not harm them! They of course, are extremely beneficial to have around.

Petting A Praying Mantis

Feral Cat Documentary - Wild Jungle Cat - The Final Chapter

Wild Feral Cat Documentary for true cat-lovers - a nocturnal Jungle Cat survives in the wild behind the Backyard. He avoids all human contact and lives wild and free, but how long can he survive there...? This is the conclusion of the multi-part story.
The story of the first feral cat I successfully befriended and found a home for - perhaps this fellows sister:
Part 1 of this cats story:
Part 2:

Feral Cat Documentary

Video: Feral Cat Documentary - Wild Jungle Cat - The Final Chapter