Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis)

A few years ago, I was clearing a garden of debris when I was startled by movement. To my surprise, I had disturbed a Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis).

Picture of prairie skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis)
Prairie Skink (Plestiodon septentrionalis)

Prairie skink prefer sandy soils and open grasslands with loose soil so that they can construct their burrows. Our soil is mess of clay, sand, rocks, and humus and can become quite hard when it dries out. I usually see the skink in or near our gardens. Perhaps my working the soil in the gardens has created enough loose soil to provide a suitable habitat for the skink.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)

Five years ago, we planted a small native wildflower garden in our back yard. Every year we add more native wild flowers. One of the first plants we planted was Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia). They have established themselves and are slowly spreading.

Picture of Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)

Picture of Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea angustifolia)

Picture of Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea angustifolia)

A frequent visitor to the coneflowers are Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus).

Picture of two monarch butterflies

Picture of a Monarch butterfly on a Purple Coneflower

Plants Growing on Dead Trees

There are the remains of several dead trees in our back yard. The moss-covered remains a large weeping willow cover the ground in the southeast corner of our property. This year, I discovered that Spotted Touch-me-not (Impatiens capensis) was now growing on the moss-covered logs.

Picture of a Impatiens capensis plant growing from a moss-covered log
Picture of a Impatiens capensis plant growing from a moss-covered log
A picture of Impatiens capensis plants growing on a mossy log
A “forest” of Impatiens capensis plants growing on a mossy log.

Another tree blew down in a thunderstorm only a year ago, yet, already plants are growing from its remains. I’m not surprised, however. The tree trunk that fell down last year was the last trunk of three. The tree had been dying for years and there was a considerable amount of rotten wood in the core of the tree.

Picture of plants growing on a recently fallen tree trunk.
Plants growing on a recently fallen tree trunk.
A picuture of a plant growing in a cavity in a recently fallen tree trunk.
A plant growing in a cavity in a recently fallen tree trunk.

Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

Every few years, usually in the spring, a wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) will wander through the yard. Occasionally, they make their way over to our back patio where they help themselves to water from the bird bath or black oil sunflower seeds scattered on the pavement below the bird feeder.

Back in May, 2009, this turkey wandered through and helped itself to a drink.

Picture of a wild turkey drinking from the bird bath

Picture of a wild turkey walking through the yard

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

I enjoy discovering new plants in our yard. Since we purchased this property 12+ years ago, the diversity of plant life has noticably increased. This is partly due to our not using herbicides and just letting nature do its thing.

This has a generally positive consequence, with native species gaining a new foothold on our property. For instance, Impatiens capensis (Spotted Touch-Me-Not, Spotted Jewelweed) has spread from no plants when we first moved in to hundreds of plants spread across the property.

Unfortunately, we have encountered our share of invasive species. Some, like buckthorn, are fairly well known while others, such as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), are not as well known by the general public.

Picture of Garlic Mustard
Garlic Mustard

I first learned that Garlic Mustard is an invasive species when I posted pictures of it to my Facebook page, asking others if they knew what the plant was. To my chagrin, my friend Jeffery F. identified it as Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata).

He wrote:

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a noxious weed (illegal to transport off of your property) and takes over forest floors, killing all plants around it with the chemicals it excretes (allelopathic plant) and outcompetes all the native plants and tree seedlings as well.

I swung into action the following weekend and removed all Garlic Mustard I could find on our property. I knew I had to act quickly because it would soon be flowering. Mustard plants produce hundreds of seeds and, if I waited, I ran the risk of spreading the seeds all over our yard.


After:Picture of barren soil where I had removed the garlic mustard patch

I filled two bags with garlic mustard plants.

Picutre of two large bags filled with garlic mustard plants

Since that day in late April, I have checked periodically for any plants I may have missed. So far, it appears I got all of them.