Walking On the Wild Side

Every morning at dawn there is a concert outside our house… a raucous trilling and tweeting that wakes us as the day has barely dawned. While I’m always impressed with their enthusiasm, it’s hard for me to get nearly that excited before the sun comes up.

Wren HouseWe’ve welcomed the birds with plentiful bird-friendly shrubbery, flowers and multiple nesting options, in a wonderful fledgling-friendly neighborhood. But, when I hear their songs, I’m ashamed to admit, I haven’t a clue whose voices are shattering my slumber. During the day, their songs have become a pleasant background soundtrack.

I’ve decided to be more astute about all the wild things I encounter on my daily jaunts.

JJ and I walk the dogs each morning, basking in the peace of our country roads. HorsesWe check in with two horses that live in a field across the way, and are happy and relieved to see the solitary bunny that lives in a dense hedgerow, has survived another day. A neighbor has reported seeing a litter, so going forward we can worry about the entire colony. And lately, a local doe has been out grazing with her freshly spotted newborns, who seem to be too curious for their own good.

baltimore_oriole_glamorThe birds are always busy and chattering away. Today, on a tree I didn’t recognize, a host of Baltimore Orioles was devouring its fruit. I can’t believe these birds fly all the way from Mexico and South America, just to dine here for a few months a year. However, with their showy orange plumage, they do look like vacationers. Baltimore Orioles are fruit and insect eaters, so this tree must have filled all their requirements.

MulberryAfter identifying the tree as a Mulberry, I turned to my plant guru, the delightfully opinionated Dr. Michael Dirr, to learn why this tree had slipped under my plant-loving radar.

 

imagesThe common mulberry, Morus alba, has fruit that can be ‘messy.’ and birds and other wildlife eat the fruit and then transplant the seed hither and yon.

A tree that fruits this prolifically with dark red berries could be very messy!

Dirr considers our native red mulberry a superior tree, though tough to find. It appears to be a magnet for Baltimore Orioles, so I want one…just not hovering over the patio.

Here are some interesting facts I found about mulberry trees, courtesy of healthyhomegardening.com.

  • A fully ripened mulberry is dark purple to black, edible, and sweet with a good flavor.
  • Unripe fruit and green parts of the plant have a white sap that is intoxicating and mildly hallucinogenic.
  • The ripe fruit is edible and is widely used in pies, tarts, wines and cordials.
  • The mature plant contains significant amounts of resveratrol, (a natural Phenol), particularly in stem bark.
  • The fruit and leaves are sold in various forms as nutritional supplements.
  • Mulberry leaves, particularly those of the white mulberry, are ecologically important as the sole food source of the silkworm.
  • The tree branches pruned during the fall season (after the leaves have fallen) are cut and used to make very durable baskets.
  • The fruit is believed to have medicinal properties. The leaves are eaten for diabetes.

From now on, I’m going forth with my eyes open even wider. I’ll let you know what I see.

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