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All posts for the month April, 2010

By John Harrod, Manager, DuPont Environmental Education Center

One of my favorite native plants is in peak bloom today in the DuPont Environmental Education Center botanic garden: the serviceberry. Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) is a large shrub or small tree that grows 15-40 feet tall depending on the species and right now it is covered in white blossoms with strap-like petals. It is also known as shadbush because it blooms about the same time shad are swimming up the rivers to spawn. In the next few days those petals will create a soft rain of white as they drift to the ground.

Serviceberry Blossom. Photo by John Harrod.

 Fruit and vegetable gardening is becoming increasingly popular, but not everyone has the additional space for a new garden. If this is you, then my solution for you is to plant a serviceberry! It serves dual purposes as an ornamental and food source. It produces round, sweet fruits similar to a blueberry in the early summer. So to save space, plant the smallest of the species, Canada serviceberry (A. canadensis), into an existing ornamental flowerbed. The berries start out as a red and mature to a reddish-purple, and taste great. You will have to be quick to collect them since they are a favorite for many birds too, including catbirds and mockingbirds.

Serviceberry fruit. Photo by John Harrod.

As a season finale, the serviceberry has vibrant orange autumn foliage.

Serviceberry fall foliage. Photo by John Harrod.

Visit the DuPont Environmental Education Center on April 17th for the Copeland Native Plant Seminar to learn more about native plants with special guest Edgar David, tour of the 10-acre botanic garden with the garden’s designer, and put together a container planting with Gateway Garden Center. For more information click here

 After you see the plants, buy your own at the DNS Native Plant Sale at Coverdale Farm the first weekend in May! Canada serviceberry will be at the Sale.  For more information click here.

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

This weekend was perfect for getting out and observing nature and evidence of the spring season.  Yesterday, I had a great walk around the Bucktoe Creek Preserve near Kennett Square, PA and managed to get some photos and video of birds, flowers, reptiles, and amphibians (plus a neat mite).

American Goldfinches are turning yellow.  Brown-headed Cowbird males are displaying.  The males puff-up and send out a squeaky, gurgling sound to attract a mate.  Mourning Doves are cooing.  Look for the enlarged throat as the bird sings in the video.  Brown Thrashers arrived yesterday, and I found several singing.  Compared to the Northern Mockingbird, another member of the Mimidae family, Thrashers usually repeat their sounds twice, and Mockingbirds 3 or more times.  Eastern Phoebes, a migratory flycatcher, have been in the area for a few weeks now.  Wildflowers are blooming.  In addition to the ones in the video, get out now to see blooming bloodroot.  The Velvet Mite is an arachnid related to spiders.  As larvae, they attach themselves to various insects and feed parasitically.  As an adult, like the one pictured, they feed on small insects and other tiny creatures in the soil.

Finally, the reptiles and amphibians are emerging and calling.  Eastern Garter Snakes are out and about.  I’ve seen several that have been run over by cars recently.  Green and Pickerel Frogs were out yesterday.  American Toads are in the middle of courtship right now.  Come to the Ashland Marsh near the parking lot and you’ll see and hear lots of them.  Kids love them, and they are really fun to watch.  Enjoy the warm weather and let us know what you are seeing!

Attend the free bird walks at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve which are held each Sunday and Monday at 8am. If botany is your thing, attend the free Bucktoe Botany Walks, which are held each Saturday at 10am. Directions can be found here.