We have a dozen White oak (Quercus alba) trees on our property, several of which are large and overhang the house, patio, and sidewalks. Starting in August, there is a constant staccato of knocks on the roof when the oaks drop their ripe acorns. When the wind gusts, the bombardment from the falling acorns is particularly heavy. And this year, the bombardment has been especially heavy, even on calm days with little wind.
Last year, the oaks produced a very small crop of acorns, so much so that I don’t recall seeing any on the walkways. This year, as if to compensate for last year’s meager output, the oaks produced a copious quantity of acorns. Regardless if we sweep the walkways once or twice a day, by the next morning, they are covered with acorns.
This morning, the bombardment by the back steps seemed strangely intense and concentrated. Looking out the window, I saw two acorns hit Lizzie in quick succession. When I went to investigate, I saw a gray squirrel up on a branch. It was the cause of the intensified bombardment!
After the squirrel had ran off to a different tree, I ran inside the house to retrieve my phone so I could take photos. Returning with the phone, I squatted to take pictures of the acorns scattered on the sidewalk when I was hit on the head by an acorn! Unbeknownst to me, the squirrel had returned while I was inside and had renewed his bombardment!
It was with dismay that I discovered there was ragweed growing in our front lawn. None of the plants were particularly large but, unfortunately, some had begun to flower. Ragweed pollen is a primary cause of allergic rhinitis, AKA hay fever in late summer and fall for many Midwesterners. While I am not allergic to ragweed, Kat is and, therefore, I have a particular anathema for ragweed.
There are three species of ragweed native to Minnesota. Ragweed can be found growing everywhere in the Twin Cities, including along the medians and shoulders of freeways and highways. Because of its widespread prevalence, there is no chance of eradicating it. I just do my small part by removing it from our yard whenever I discover it.
The following are photographs of Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) taken by Katy Chayka of Minnesota Wildflowers.
A point I would like to clear up is that goldenrod does not cause hay fever. Goldenrod and ragweed are completely different species. Both are native to Minnesota, are widespread, bloom in late summer and fall, and grow near each other.
Goldenrod pollen is spread via pollinating insects whereas ragweed is dispersed via the wind. One clue that indicates goldenrod relies on insects for pollination is that its flowers are bright yellow. Ragweed flowers, not needing pollinating insects, are hardly noticeable. As such, whereas there may not be much goldenrod pollen floating in the air, ragweed needs to release a lot of pollen into the air. It is all the ragweed pollen floating in the air that triggers allergic rhinitis in so many people.
While goldenrod can be a nuisance because it can crowd out other species, I much prefer the fields of goldenrod growing in our yard to the stands of ragweed along the highway.
This summer we have sighted a numerous American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) in our yard. There have been so many that occasionally it can be difficult to walk through the yard without stepping on one.
Whenever Lizzie shows interest in a toad, we tell her to “leave it” because we don’t want her to harm it. However, their prevalence and their using her water bowls to relax in makes that task somewhat difficult.
Every year, starting around mid-July, the cicadas emerge to serenade us. We typically have at any given time, what sounds to my ear, to be two or three cicadas in our yard. This year, however, there have been so many that I am unable to count them by listening. And they emerged earlier than usual, with the first being heard at the tail end of June!
Near a stump in our yard, I counted nine shed exoskeletons and at least one live cicada.
While cicadas and crickets aren’t attractive insects like monarch or swallowtail butterflies, I enjoy the buzz of the cicadas and the trill of crickets, especially at night when I have the bedroom windows open.