Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wool Sower Gall

As our habitat garden has grown, there have been new discoveries to be made everyday. Yesterday Mr. Southern Meadows found a weird growth on one of the white maple trees. Was it a fungus, cocoon, gall or something else? It is about the size of a ping pong ball and looks like a cotton ball with pinkish spots. It is spongy but solid. It could almost be a flower as they are located at the end of the branches. Any guesses?

Southern Meadows

An internet search reveled that it is a gall specific to white oak trees and only found in spring. According the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Department of Entomology, this wool sower gall (sometimes called the oak seed gall) is caused by secretions of grubs of a small gall wasp, Callirhytis seminator. They lay their eggs in winter and the eggs hatch as new leaves appear on the tree in spring. Chemical secretions from the young grubs stimulate the plant to develop the gall tissue which provides protection to the developing larva and nourishing food.

Southern Meadows

If one pulls the gall apart (which we did not do) it would reveal seed-like structures. The gall wasps develop inside these structures. Apparently they are never enough numbers to do any harm to the oak trees. We only found two galls on one of our trees. I think parasitic wasps are so incredibly fascinating. They often have pretty complex life-cycles and have co-evolved with their hosts. To see a photo of the parasitic wasp click here.

Have you ever found a gall in your garden?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday~Carolina Jessamine

Yellow is such a beautiful color in the garden. One of my favorite yellows is our native evergreen vine, Carolina Jessamine. It can be found in abandoned fields and climbing in the canopies of our pine forests.

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It is a pretty adaptable plant and does well in our clay soil. The great thing about this vine is that it can twine up trellises and over fences and walls but also makes a dense ground cover. I use it both ways in our garden.

Southern Meadows

The masses of fragrant flowers bloom in April in my garden and the tiger swallowtails love it. It was chosen as the state flower of our next door neighbor, South Carolina, because "it is indigenous to every nook and cranny of the State. It is the first premonitor of coming Spring; its fragrance greets us first in the woodland and its delicate flower suggests the pureness of gold; and its perpetual return out of the dead of winter suggests the lesson of constancy in, loyalty to, and patriotism in the service of the State" (S.C. General Assembly document).

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All parts of this plant are poisonous which keeps the deer and other animals from munching on it. The primary pollinators are bumble bees, Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies, European honey bees, blue orchard bees and blueberry bees (source: University of Georgia).


This is a wonderful native to add to any zone 6 and higher garden. Is it growing in your garden?

To see more beautiful wildflowers be sure to head over to Clay and Limestone and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April Blooms in the Woodland Garden

The garden has really started to come alive the past few weeks. Not that it was completely dormant, but we do seem to be a few weeks behind the usually time frame. We have been anxious to see what survived our fierce winter and what perished. So far, things are looking pretty promising. But then again, we have another hard freeze warning tonight.

Southern Meadows
narrow view of woodland garden
Spring is the most exciting time in the woodland gardens at Southern Meadows and everyday there is someone new poking their head through the soil.

Southern Meadows

The Redbud trees are at the tail end of bloom time but our tree was spectacular, putting out more blooms than ever. We found this little guy two years ago while clearing part of the back garden. It was a very happy day.

Southern Meadows

The dogwood trees are still going strong. We have several varieties including Cherokee Brave which has a white center that fades to lovely deep pink bracts.

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Lower to the ground the ferns and hosta are saying hello. They all appear in their own sweet time, some are out faster than others.


Some of my favorite combinations are variegated Solomon's Seal and Foam Flower. Unfortunately, I found it impossible to get a good photo of them together; so here they are separately.

Southern Meadows

Southern Meadows

I noticed the nodding trillium just yesterday. They are easily missed because their blooms hang down below the drooping leaves. This also makes them challenging to photograph. Stooping down in the leaf litter with one's camera is something every gardener does, right?!

Southern Meadows

The Celandine poppies are starting to put out one bloom at a time. One of our plants hasn't come up yet and I am thinking critters may be the culprits. These should spread in nicely in the woodland garden over time. I think they would look lovely paired with Virginia bluebells that I want to add.

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I just love walking by the sweet shrubs because their blooms have the most heavenly, sweet scent. I describe it as pineapple sprinkled with orange. The shrubs were growing on the property when we moved here. On a whim, I purchased a sweet shrub at a plant sale last year and interestingly that one has a much spicier aroma and not a hint of citrus.

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An adorable little plant that is tougher than it looks is the Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia). It starting blooming very late March to early April and lasts about a month. I shot this photo at the beginning of its bloom time just before it fully opened. The petals reflex upwards displaying a pointed yellowish tube with white and brown accents. Queen bumblebees are the most common pollinators to visit these flowers, but miner bees and green metallic bees will also visit. I read that they obtain the pollen through buzz pollination which is the rapid vibration of the bees thoracic muscles. This is another flower that offers no nectar reward so the bees are simply collecting pollen.

Southern Meadows

There has been lots of bird activity this month. The bluebirds have been actively visiting several nesting boxes and it looks like they have finally decided to set up in this box in the rose garden. Don't they make a beautiful couple~

Southern Meadows

The chickadees also showed an interested in this box but they decided on a box near the kitchen garden. I peeked in this morning and saw Mrs. Chickadee. One click of the camera from a precarious position and she was off.

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I don't really like disturbing them during nesting time but I had to take a look to see what was happening  Isn't it a beautiful nest; filled with moss, dryer lint and some strands of dog hair...nice and soft!

Southern Meadows

How is your spring garden coming along? Is it slow to start or right on schedule? Be sure to check out what everyone has to share this month at May Dreams Gardens. Thank you Carol for being such a wonderful host!