Like other deciduous larches, the subalpine larch, Larix lyallii, sheds its needles each year. The trees make a grand show up there near the treeline, with their yellow needles and often twisted form. Further down the mountains, they tend to be taller and grow straighter. Fresh new twigs have single needles, whereas older twigs have clusters of needles growing from a little raised knot along the twig. Cones are spherical with long bracts extending out past each scale, giving the cones a shaggy appearance. These trees grow along with their very close and very similar relative, Larix occidentalis, in the upper Rocky Mountains and Cascade range in the northwestern United States and nearby regions of Canada.

Larix lyallii subalpine alpine larch northwest canada united states trees treeline mountains deciduous needles

The Gymnosperm Database
The Wild Garden
Burke Museum
Virginia Tech

The Dhole or Asiatic Wild Dog, Cuon alpinus, is an endangered canine with only about 2500 to 3000 individuals left in the wild. This unique species does not fit neatly into either the wolf-like nor fox-like canids, and therefore has its own genus. Dholes have two extra teets… and two less teeth than other wild dogs! They hunt in packs like wolves, but communicate with a whistle rather than a howl. Dholes are now mostly found in India and parts of China, but also can be found on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java.

dhole Cuon alpinus asiatic indian wild dog red canids asia indonesia china

ARKive   ADW
A to Z Animals
Dhole Fact File

Sagarmatha is the world’s highest national park, for it includes Mount Everest and the surrounding area of Nepal. About 3000 indigenous Sherpa people live here, along with world famous rhododendrons that bloom in April and May, pikas and snow leopards, and 193 different species of birds!

sagarmatha national park nepal himalayan mountains everest sherpa

UNESCO page
Beautiful World
YouTube Video tour

Kenilworth Ivy or Ivy-Leaved Toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis, was originally native to Mediterranean Europe but has been naturalized to the UK and parts of the USA for hundreds of years. It is widely planted in rock gardens and along garden pathways. This hardy snapdragon-like plant is an edible and a Stepable Plant that matures to just a few inches tall, but is often found creeping along or cascading over a stone wall or ledge, the whole plant being several feet long. The purple toadflax-like flowers have two lips with bright yellow spots on the lower one. Flowers draw back into the soil or rock crevice once fertilized.

Cymbalaria muralis climbing toadflax kenilworth ivy vine purple lipped wildflowers rock garden steps

Climbers by U of M
First Nature
Wild Plants of Malta
Get seeds on Amazon!

The desert heat has evaporated so much water from the Umm Al-maa oasis in the Sahara desert, that it is saltier than the sea. Yet migrating sparrows feast here. How? Watch this short little clip from BBC’s Africa documentary series to find out.

Poisonous Sahara Oasis

Here is a fun 5 1/2 minute video of 5 different micro creatures, listed below.

Euglena
Micro-worms
Daphnia
Rotifer
Seamonkey

Microscopic Farm

Common Heather, Calluna vulgaris, is a dominant plant in European moorland, and can also be found in some bog areas and pine forests. This hardy species of heath has come to be naturalized in parts of North America and Asia and is often cultivated in rock gardens around the world. There are close to 1000 different cultivars of this once-humble species, varying in growth form, flower color, flowering time, and other features. The natural species has tiny scale-like leaves and mostly pink flowers, and blooms in late summer.

 
Calluna vulgaris common scotch heather heath flowers wildflowers moor europe

ARKive   —   Wikipedia   —   EOL
YouTube video   —   UCONN Plants
How to Grow Heathers and Heaths

Of course, the Green Anole is not always green, as it can change to brown in order to hide from predators (like humans!). This has earned it the nickname “American Chameleon” although it is NOT a chameleon but rather is one of over 350 species of Anolis which is often studied for their biodiversity as well as for their neurology. Remarkably, this latter study is conducted to further our understanding of human physiology and medicine. Green anoles, Anolis carolinensis, are native to the southeastern United States, often found around low buildings with exposed wood, or in bushes near homes.

green anole carolina Anolis carolinensis lizards reptiles common north america florida south

NatureWorks   ADW   EOL
iNaturalist   Harrel House
Backyard Nature: Naturalist Newsletter

When my children were young, our family knew mallows as “cheeses” because their seeds come in a fun little package similar to a cheese wheel. The seeds are edible, so we used to hunt them down and have fun opening up the little wheels and crunching on the nutty little seeds. They are tiny, so this was more for fun than for nutrition. Common Mallow, Malva sylvestris, has one of the broadest geographical ranges of all mallows, and is also heavily researched for its medicinal properties. Many cultivars of mallow are also available for your gardening pleasure.

Malva sylvestris common mallow north american world wildflowers medicinal pink purple

Encyclopedia of Life
iNaturalist
Nature Gate
SEINet — Arizona Chapter
Permaculture – UK

North Side, South Side

They SAY that moss usually grows on the north side of trees, but this is just because the north side tends to be out of the sun during the most drying part of the day — leaving more moisture behind for mosses to grow.

north south side moss forest field investigation nature hike walk explore activity
Continue reading

Native Americans used the peeling bark of the paper birch, Betula papyrifera, as a waterproof covering or even container (such as a drinking cup or ladle). This hardy tree forms beautiful stands of white-bark trees from the southeast United States, across to Alaska. It is absent from the southwest, but extends far north into Canada. The serrated edge leaves appear alternate on the branches — or in groups of 2 or 3. In the spring, the dangling male catkins are about 3 inches long, female about half that length. The tree produces winged fruits in late summer or early autumn.

Betula papyrifera paper birch peeling white bark north america

What Tree Is It?
Illinois Wildflowers
KEW Botanical Gardens
Missouri Botanical Garden

The American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis, is one of North America’s last birds to get started building a family. In July, when other bird families include fledglings aplenty, the thistles are just starting to bloom. This signals the conspicuous bright yellow male goldfinch and his olive colored mate to start building a nest, constructed mostly of thistle down. When the eggs finally hatch, the thistles have gone to seed — the perfect time to start feeding chicks! Parent goldfinches serve their nestlings a milky cereal-like substance made of thistle seed — the bird world’s closest thing to mammal milk!

Spinus tristis male american goldfinch on thistles birds north america backyard yellow black white

eNatureBlog
Audubon
All About Birds
BirdNote
ARKive

The American Bittersweet vine, Celastrus scandens, is native to central and eastern North America, but is unfortunately being replaced by a non-native invasive species, the Oriental Bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus. Our native species has alternate, oval, fine-toothed leaves and berry-like fruits that start out green, change to yellow then orange, then finally split open to reveal the 3-part fruit interior shown below. The fruits are poisonous to humans but eaten widely by birds and mammals, from wild turkeys to eastern cottontails. When growing up a young sapling, bittersweet vines can choke out and even kill their host, but typically it causes no real damage.

american climbing bittersweet yellow red orange berries north america plants vines woods forest Celastrus scandens

Climbing Bittersweet
Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden
Minnesota Wildflowers
NC State University Extension
Missouri Botanical Garden

If it looks like a hyena, lives in Africa like hyenas, but eats termites instead of meat… it is an aardwolf (Proteles cristata)! This smallest member of the hyena family has two separate populations in Africa, one in the south and one in the eastern “horn” area of the continent. Its paws and jaws are not designed like other termite eaters (think: anteaters), and its teeth are not like other hyenas — they are not so good at tearing flesh. While aardwolves will sometimes resort to eating small mammals and birds, this is only during the coldest and wettest times of year. Otherwise, it takes advantage of its nearly hairless muzzle and long sticky tongue to lap up thousands of termites each night. Farmers appreciate THIS hyena…!

Proteles cristata aardwolf africa african mammals baby fur cute adorable unusual uncommon unknown species insectivores

ARKive   |   ADW   |   iNaturalist
Hyena Specialist Group
Wednesday Hyena
Our Wild World
Siyabona Africa

The stickpins or stubble lichens are 30 species in the genus Calicium, which often grow on live branches of trees such as giant redwoods. Below is a closeup of the fruiting body of Calicium adaequatum, sometimes called the “tiny daisy” lichen. Click the links below the pic to see just how minute these bodies really are…! Our Creator sure likes to put a lot of detail into tiny structures! 😀

Calicium adaequatum tiny daisy stickpins stubble lichen fruiting body miniature redwood forests boreal

Encyclopedia of Life
Ways of EnLICHENment
United States Forest Service

Here’s a little clip from BBC Earth’s hard-to-find series, Wild Caribbean. It features acrobatic and highly intelligent capuchin monkeys in a coastal forest area of Costa Rica.

Caribbean Capuchins

This uniquely patterned flower goes by several names including Checkered Lily, Snake’s Head Fritillary, and Guinea Hen Flower. It is Fritillaria meleagris, the genus name meaning (basically) checkered and the species name referring to guinea fowl. This plant is native to Eurasia from the UK across into western Russia. It is also widely grown as a spring bulb in gardens all across the USA. Certainly planting a few of these bulbs would provide a new conversation starter for any garden!

Snake's Head Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris checkered lily ornamental eurasian france red purple spotted checkerboard pattern unusual

KEW Botanical Gardens
Encyclopedia of Life
Wikipedia
Pacific Bulb Society
Paghat’s Garden

Two days in a row, when I went to my mailbox there was a Zelus nymph — a young assassin bug — on the handle. Each time, I gently lowered the door on the box, trying not to disturb the unique creature that graced my front yard. Each day, it was a different species, too! One day it was the red one shown below, Zelus longipes. The other day it was a smaller, little green guy, Zelus luridus. While some say they look like their adult forms (due to incomplete metamorphosis), I could not find these nymphs in any of my insect books because there is no ADULT insect that has this body shape. My research began by googling “skinny bug”! 😀

assassin bug nymph young zelus longipes milkweed longlegged skinny red black hunter

American Insects: Zelus longipesZelus luridus
Reduviidae: Assassin Bugs (Austin Bug Collection)
Bug Eric blog — Nature at Close Range blog
Arthropods of Maine (blog page on Z. luridus)
Featured Creatures: Zelus longipes
Beneficials in the Garden (mostly on Zelus longipes)

The Ohio Buckeye, Aesculus glabra, is one of a couple dozen different species of horse chestnut tree. It grows up to about 80 feet tall and is native to the Eastern United States. The five-finger (palmately compound) leaves are nearly as famous in its region as its poisonous, shiny brown nuts. Although the nuts cannot be eaten, they have been used to tan leather (high tannin content) or are dried and strung as beads on a necklace. The name “Buckeyes” is given to all inhabitants of the state of Ohio, along with its state university sports teams. There is also a special candy made of peanut butter dipped in chocolate with a little ring of gold left uncovered at the top — made to resemble the buckeye nut. The Ohio Buckeye is the state tree of Ohio, and the name buckeye comes from one of the area’s early explorers being dubbed “Eye of the Buck” by local Native Americans.

ohio buckeye tree nuts leaves garden north america midwest Aesculus glabra horsechestnuts

Virginia Tech
Missouri Botanical Garden
LBJ Wildflower Center
What Tree is it?

The Oriental Sweetlips, Plectorhinchus vittatus, lives in reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, near Indonesia. They have rather puffy lips, hence the name. 😛
This species really looks different between its juvenile and adult form! Young sweetlips are rather speckled with dark splotches on a light background. Eventually, these markings morph to black and white stripes with yellow tail, fins, and face. The bright yellow shows the splotches of youth, although they are smaller overall, more like spots. Check out the links below the pic to find out more about this unique species of grunt fish.

Plectorhinchus vittatus oriental sweetlips marine fish fishes yellow stripes morph change juvenile adult ocean reef indonesia pacific indian
Saltwater Smarts
Encyclopedia of Life