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Eastern Chipmunks Love Acorns

Driving down my road I occasionally see these little creatures shoot across with tails held straight up. These are Eastern Chipmunks.

Both chipmunks and ground squirrels live in Missouri. The ground squirrels are bigger with different coloring and don’t seem to live in my valley.

Except for an occasional sighting chipmunks aren’t noticed much either. My cats catch those that move into the yard. Their favorite routine is to bring the chipmunk into the house and let it go.

Cats do have a sense of humor and must enjoy watching me try to corner a terrified little rodent, scoot it into a container kept ready for such emergencies and slam the lid on. The chipmunk is then carried off down the road beyond where the cats normally go and turned loose.

eastern chipmunk
Eastern chipmunks give another meaning to cheeky. This one stashed an acorn in a cheek pouch for a secure carry back across the road. The swelling might give the impression of a big tumor, but it’s easily removed.

For some reason I had believed eastern chipmunks, like woodchucks, hibernated during the winter. So I was surprised to see several of them busy gathering acorns on a walk down the road.

Chipmunks do not hibernate. They do stay home in their burrows in cold weather. This means they must gather up a supply of food to snack on. Acorns are popular snacks.

That is exactly what these busy creatures were doing when I noticed them. It was hard to not notice one of them.

Most wildlife wants to avoid people. The birds keep flying off to a tree further down the road. Deer bound off white tails waving. Squirrels streak up the trees.

eastern chipmunk eating acorn
Being a rodent, the front gnawing teeth have enamel only on the front which grows continuously. Gnawing on things like acorns wears it away and keeps it razor sharp. The fingers are long on all four paws and have good nails for digging burrows. What most people see is how cute they are.

Eastern chipmunks often do take off and are only rustling in the leaves. One was determined to get another acorn. It darted across the road about ten feet in front of me, stuffed two acorns in its cheek pouches, sat on a fallen branch to assess what I was up to and darted back across the road.

The little rodent didn’t go far. It raced up a fallen tree and across to a perch on another fallen branch to eat an acorn. I assume it was the same one. I saw two or three others in the area.

The next morning was twenty-five degrees. It warmed up quickly and I went walking. The chipmunks had all stayed in their burrows.

Fall Into Winter Begins

Nature really has only two seasons in the Ozarks. One is growing season. The other is winter. Now the Ozarks is waiting to fall into winter.

Most plants still look green. Looking carefully there is a yellow cast hiding under that green. The few cold nights have turned some plants like the dogwoods to fall colors.

fall into winter foliage and color
Leaves are turning red as sunflowers and asters bloom. The growing season will continue until killing frost turns the plants black one morning.

Wait a minute. Isn’t fall another season? It is for people. For plants it is still part of the growing season as they busily make seeds and store sugars and starches down in their roots for the coming winter.

Green chlorophyll doesn’t photosynthesize well in cooler temperatures so the anthocyanins take over. These come in colors other than green.

For turkeys, deer, squirrels and other such creatures the fall into winter means an abundance of seeds and nuts to gather. They don’t care about colors in the leaves, only in eating and hiding enough of this bounty to survive the winter.

deer waiting to fall into winter coat
Still in the golden brown summer coat this young white tailed deer stands in a patch of sunlight along the road debating whether to flee. The notched ear indicates this one has had a close call in the past. She needs to learn to flee from people fast as hunting season opens soon.

The deer are putting on their dark brown winter coats. The raccoons are retiring up into the hills.

Birds are more mobile. Many of them are following the warmth south. One by one the hummingbird feeders are being cleaned and stored. Migrants are stopping by to stock up on sunflower seeds for extra energy giving us a chance to see some new birds.

The usual residents are ignoring the feeder as they load up on other delectables. This excepts the morning doves who leave standing room only on the feeder in the morning.

The turkey vultures are gathering and soaring in lazy circles as they drift south. The goldfinches have shed their gold feathers and are dull green now.

River oats
One of the easiest grasses to identify, the flat seed clumps are unique. At the end of the growing season they dangle glowing gold in the sun and tremble in the breeze.

The winter visitors haven’t arrived yet. These are the juncos, various sparrows and titmice.

The days are getting short. The temperatures are warm all day and cool at night. All it will take is a good rain and the Ozarks will fall into winter.

Meander through the seasons in photographs in “My Ozark Home.”

Shelf Mushroom Appear For Spring

Spring has arrived with rain and warmer temperatures. This brings out the shelf mushroom crops.

shelf mushroom on log
A storm several years ago knocked over this large tree down by the river. The road crew cut it up and rolled the pieces off the road and into the edge of the woods. Walking by I noticed the crop of shelf mushrooms. The fresh ones are light in color. As they age, they darken. All are tough.

There are many kinds of shelf mushrooms. They are not all in the same mushroom groups for many reasons. I’m not very knowledgeable about mushrooms so I tend to look at them the same way.

shelf mushroom from top
The size of the fan may vary. The thickness may vary. The edge may be smooth or ruffled. All shelf mushrooms are semicircles.

The shelf mushrooms I see are on dead or dying trees. They jut out with a half to two thirds circular shelf. Underneath is a stem joining the shelf to the tree.

gilled shelf mushroom
This shelf mushroom has gills under its cap.

Some of the shelves have gills under them. Others have pores that look like tiny holes under them. This is why they are split into different groups.

pored shelf mushroom
Under this shelf mushroom cap is a spongy surface of pores.

The shelves are different. Some are thick and woody. Some are thin. Some are in piles. Others are separate. Some are pink or blue or lined.

Size varies too. Some are barely an inch across. Others are small plates.

Some of these mushrooms are found only in particular seasons. Others can show up anytime after a nice, warm rain.

salmon shelf mushroom
I think this is a mound of salmon shelf mushrooms. They were on a tree stump. They are supposed to be edible, but I hesitated as I wasn’t positive of my identification.

People do eat some of the shelf mushrooms. Chicken of the Woods and Oyster Mushrooms are two of the favorites. These are fairly easy to identify definitely.

Some of these mushrooms are poisonous. Most are ones no one would want to eat due to bitter flavor or woody texture.

For myself, I don’t hunt for shelf mushrooms to eat. I browse through the mushroom guides and see that many of the edible ones are too easy to confuse with others listed as not edible.

pink shelf mushroom
The soft pink color seems to glow for these shelf mushrooms on a fallen log.

A trusted friend did give me some Chicken of the Woods once. This shelf mushroom can form huge piles of shelves. It was good. I don’t trust myself to identify it on my own.

Spring brings up many mushrooms much easier to identify. Another month brings morel season. That is one mushroom I can identify confidently.

Find out more about Ozark nature in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”

Paradoxa Native Plant Walk

Sunday afternoon was a pleasant escape from cleaning up after six inches of rain with the high water that followed. Paradoxa, the Rolla chapter of the Missouri Native Plant Society, held a winter tree identification walk.

Finding trees is easy in the Ozarks. They tend to be big and hard to miss. Over the winter most trees are bare trunks and branches.

For someone like me who depends on leaves and flowers to identify a plant, bare trunks and branches are daunting. Where do you start?

tree barks

Bark helps identify a tree in winter. The Osage orange bark (left) is yellow with long ribbons intertwined. Shagbark hickory (center) has long, thin plates of grey bark. American elm (right) looks like well worn gray pavement.

As the Paradoxa group wandered around looking at the different trees, several important things to look for became obvious. First was bark.

All trees have bark. Take a closer look at the bark. Bark is not usually smooth and featureless. Bark has color, texture and furrow patterns. The combinations help identify the tree.

terminal tree buds

Terminal buds are another help in identifying a tree in winter. Osage orange (left) has small buds on a big bulge. Post oak buds (center) have shingled scales and a gang of buds. Shagbark hickory (right) has a single large bud with two scales, one on each side. This bud is starting to open.

A second characteristic is the terminal buds. When a tree goes dormant in the fall, it makes leaf buds covered by scales on its branches. The one on the tip of a branch or twig is the terminal bud.

Some buds have many small scales giving the bud a shingled look. Others have two scales, one on each side.

Some trees have a single terminal bud. Other trees like to have groups of buds.

Paradoxa plant group

Two retired forest service men led the Paradoxa group on their winter tree identification walk.

The Paradoxa group looked at the bark and buds. Some were easy like the black walnut. Others were hard.

Where do you go for the hard ones?

One place is the winter tree guide published by the Missouri Department of Conservation. The Missouri Trees guide has the bark and buds in it.

Paradoxa group hiking

The Paradoxa group includes people of all ages. Many are Master gardeners or naturalists. All are interested in Missouri native plants.

The more interesting place to go is on a guided walk like the one Paradoxa held on Sunday. Everyone on the walk is interested in Missouri plants. Each person knows a different set of plants.

As we walked along, we made comments about the different trees. Those who recognized the tree helped those who didn’t spot the best ways to identify it in the future.

The Missouri Native Plant Society has chapters like Paradoxa in many parts of Missouri. Anyone interested in Missouri plants will find joining the groups helpful and fun.

Yellow Ironweed Verbesina alternifolia

Yellow is the color of late summer in the Ozarks. Yellow Ironweed is one of the many yellow wildflowers blooming along the roads and in the pastures from august to killing frost.


Verbesina alternifolia Britton ex Kearney

August to October                                       N                                 Family: Asteraceae

                                                                                                            Tribe: Heliantheae

yellow ironweed flower

Flower: A profusion of yellow flowers top short stems forming a loose head at the top of the plant. Not all of the flowers bloom at the same time. Each flower head has up to 10 bright orange yellow ray flowers sweeping down from the globular mass of yellow tube flowers. These are up to half an inch long and stick out individually.

yellow ironweed side flower

Leaf: The leaves are usually alternate but may be opposite in part or all of the plant. The lower leaves may have a short, winged petiole but upper leaves are sessile. each leaf has a slow taper to the center and a slow taper to a sharp point. The leaf top is darker green than the bottom and begin to take on a yellow tinge as the leaf ages. Both sides have a sandpaper texture.

yellow ironweed leaf

Stem: A single stem grows up to 8 feet tall. The only branches are at the top leading to flowers. The green, ridged stem is winged with white hairs between the ridges and wings.

yellow ironweed under leaf

Root: The perennial roots are fibrous and have stout rhizomes so the plant forms colonies.

yellow ironweed stem

Fruit: The seeds develop inside a cage formed by the remains of the tube flowers. This opens to release the flat, brown seeds with small wings along their sides.

yellow ironweed fruit

Habitat: This plant prefers sunny places but will grow in light shade. It likes good soil with moisture as in lower pastures, along roadside ditches, along streams and bases of bluffs.


Yellow Ironweed

yellow ironweed plant

Yellow Ironweed has thick, stiff stems letting it tower over most other plants growing nearby. The stems are tough enough to withstand wind and remain upright. This lets it grow wherever it finds the right soil and moisture level.

The tall stems are popular with various vines. False buckwheat, partridge pea, hog peanut, woodbine, morning glories and more twine themselves around the stems and bind several plants together.

Recognizing this plant is fairly easy not only because of its size but by its flowers. The color is vibrant yellow. The back swept rays are irregular in number and arrangement. The globular crown of long, yellow disk flowers sticking out is totally different from the other aster family members. In those the disk or tube flowers are packed close together. Yellow Ironweed tube flowers are separate individuals.

This plant is determined to bloom and produce seeds. Even when the top is eaten off, the lower leaves send out new flower stalks. These will bloom on plants now only two feet tall. The leaves and stem tips do seem popular with deer.

The leaves are large and feel rough. As the plant blooms into the fall, the leaves take on a yellowish green color. The lowest ones turn yellow and drop off.

Yellow Ironweed forms colonies and seeds itself prolifically. These form yellow clouds of flowers along the roads and in the pastures from late summer into fall until frost kills the plants.

Wood Sage Teucrium canadense

In May single, thick, square stems appear pushing their way through the dense crowd of plants. In June conical spires of flowers top the stems and the first ring of pale lavender, almost pinkish, flowers open. The Wood Sage is in bloom.

Teucrium canadense L.

June – September                             N                                             Family: Lamiaceae

wood sage flower

Flower: A flower spike surrounds the top of the stem in whorls of two to six flowers. Green calyxes surround the bases of the flowers. Each flower has a large, white to pale lavender lower lip with dark purple mottling near the throat of the flower. Two short upright petals flank the lower lip like ears. The four stamens and pistil arch up over the lower lip. The edges and undersides of the petals are covered with short hairs.

wood sage side flower

Leaf: Opposite leaves have short or no petioles. Two leaf lie bracts spread out at the base of each leaf. The leaf is long and widest toward the middle and tapers to a point. The edges are toothed. Short hairs cover the top and bottom surfaces of the leaves. The mid and side veins form strong cords on the underside of the leaf.

wood sage leaf

Stem: Stiff square stems grow three to four feet tall. Fine short hairs cover the stems. Rarely the stem branches in the upper half.

wood sage underr leafRoot: The roots are fibrous and perennial. There are rhizomes so the plant forms colonies.

wood sage stemFruit:

Habitat: This plant prefers open, sunny areas with moist soils such as along creeks, roadside ditches and prairies.

Wood Sage

American Germander

wood sage plant

Wood Sage can be considered a weed. A single stalk appears one year. The next year the one stalk has become a small colony. Other single stalks appear nearby. In a few years Wood Sage covers the area.

Various smaller native bees don’t mind this abundance of food. They zero in on the purple splotches on the lower lip of the flowers and land to feed. For people, the flowers have no scent.

The flower spikes can be eight inches long. The tall stems bring the flowers up to where they are easily noticed. The flowers are small at three quarters of an inch long but are interesting to look at with their little ears.

Wood Sage is occasionally planted in native gardens. As with other mints, this one must be confined or it will take over the garden. It is a hardy plant tolerating some drought and crowding by other plants.

I find Wood Sage along the roads where it thrives even when surrounded by giant ragweed, blackberries and poison ivy. It does like lots of sun and withstands hot temperatures. The flower spikes make it an easy plant to identify.

Enjoy more nature essays about the plants, animals and events of an Ozark year in Exploring the Ozark Hills.

Butterfly Weed Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, is fast becoming a popular garden flower. It is one of the most easily seen and recognized of Ozark wildflowers.

My goal with these plant pages is to present information on a plant plainly. This post is set up for easy viewing online but includes the information and pictures used on the actual pages about butterfly weed.

I would appreciate any feedback you may have on this information either through the comments section or the Contact Page [this may be more reliable].

Asclepias tuberosa L.

May to September                                       N                                 Family: Asclepiaceae

butterfly weed flowers

Flower: Flowers range from lemon yellow through most commonly orange to red. The corolla is backswept. The five wells have the outer wall elongated and standing upright. The five horns arch over to the central disk. The flowers are in flat topped umbels from the tips of branches and nearby leaf nodes.

butterfly weed flower umbel

Leaf: The leaves are alternate and sessile. The top surface is dark green. The under surface is light green with a prominent midvein. The other veins are in a network. Short hairs cover the leaves especially the edges and veins.

butterfly weed leaves

Stem: The stem is hairy and ranges from green to purple. It goes up then bends over often with a branch or two.

butterfly weed stem

Root: This plant has a rhizome.

butterfly weed seed pods

Fruit: Each umbel can produce several long seed pods. They tend to stay slender with a groove down one side. They are covered with short hairs and ripen to a purplish brown. The groove splits releasing the tufted seeds into the wind.

butterfly weed seeds

Habitat: Butterfly Weed loves the sun. It grows along roadsides, in pastures, glades, open ground. It is often in drier areas.

Butterfly Weed

Chigger Flower, Pleurisy Root

butterfly weed plant

Asclepias tuberosa is a perennial so the plants show up in much the same places every year. Their flower color is so distinctive I watch for it trying to spot the first one to bloom.

Most butterfly weed around here is vivid orange. Some are paler, more yellow or even true lemon yellow. Some are deep red.

Some special flowers are two toned. They open as yellow. The backswept corolla remains so but the wells darken to red. These flowers are quite striking.

The greatest enemy of these plants is the roadside brush cutter. Unlike other milkweeds, butterfly weed will try to grow new stems and bloom again. It takes its toll on the plants and these may disappear after a few years.

Some of the older people in the area have successfully transplanted a special plant to their home. The fleshy fragile rhizome makes this very difficult. Failures are more common than successes but not mentioned.

The easiest way to have these plants in the home garden is to start them from seed or purchase nursery plants. I was told the plant can be propagated by layering as well. The low growth habit, prolific blooming, vivid colors and attraction of butterflies have made this a popular garden plant.

Although larger butterflies will stop by, I’ve seen pipevine and tiger swallowtails, most of the butterflies are smaller. Pearl crescent, little sulfurs, various skippers and gray hairstreaks hang around them creating a multicolored cloud. The usual wasps and bumblebees tromp around pollinating the flowers.

This milkweed is unusual in two ways. It has alternate leaves. It has clear instead of milky sap. Monarchs do lay eggs on it. Their caterpillars do seem to mature on the plants.

Whether growing wild or in a garden, butterfly weed is worth stopping and admiring.

OS9 Changing Water Pressure

A column of water presses down on its base. Each cubic centimeter adds another gram of mass changing water pressure on the base. We saw how that works last week.

When the siphon moved water from one jar to another, the water ran slower as the jars were closer in height or the water level went down in the jar.

If you put a hole in a can, any water in the can will run out. What if there is more than one hole in the can? How will this affect how the water runs out of the can?

materials for project

Question: How does changing water pressure affect how water flows?


2 very large juice cans with the top removed or soda bottles with the tops cut off

1 soup can or jar to set the large cans or bottles on

Large tray [not needed if you do this outside]

Drill with a 1/8 inch bit [Help to drill some holes in the cans]



4 Nickels


Drill three holes 0.5 cm from the bottom of one juice can or soda bottle spaced around the can

bottom holes in can

It is possible to use a nail if there is a tight board inside the can. Drilling a hole is much easier and makes a better hole.

Use the ruler to make a line down one side of the other can or soda bottle

Mark a point 0.5cm from the bottom, 5.5 cm up, 10.5 cm and 15.5 cm

line of holes in can

The line of holes is supposed to be straight. Mine wavered a little as the drill slipped a bit on the can.

Drill holes at each mark

Put pieces of tape over the holes in the cans. Be sure these are tight.

tape over the holes

The piece of tape needs to be tight over the hole. The ends are left loose for easy grabbing.

Put the can with three holes on the small can in the tray, a bathtub or ground outside

Fill the can with water to the top or a mark so you can fill the can the same each time

how does changing water pressure affect water streams?

The can set well on the upside down jar. I didn’t get it put back exactly the same every time but couldn’t be too far off or the can would fall off. I filled the can to the rim each time.

Pull off one piece of tape and put a nickel where the water first hits the tray or ground

Measure how far the water went from the can

Changing water pressure made the stream start here then move in toward the can

I measured from the jar each time as the centimeters started a little out on the ruler accounting for the overhang of the can.

Describe how the water stream acts as the can empties

Take off all the tape from the holes and dry the outside of the can thoroughly

Put one piece of tape over all three holes

Will more than one hole make changing water pressure change the flow?

Masking tape will not stick to a wet can. Again the ends are loose for easy grabbing. Each part over a hole is rubbed down tightly.

Set the can back on the prop can and fill it with water to the same place as before.

Pull the tape off quickly and put a nickel where one of the streams of water hits the tray or ground

Observe how the three streams of water act as the can empties out

Measure how far the water went from the can

Set this can aside and put pieces of tape over the holes

Put the other can on the prop can

four holes taped on can

If each tape is on tightly on a dry surface, the pieces will hold even through refilling.

Fill the can with water

Pull off the top tape piece and put a nickel where the water first hits the tray or ground

Measure how far the water went

Dry the outside of the can and replace the piece of tape

Fill the can

Pull the tape from the second hole down and put a nickel where the water first hits

Measure how far the water goes

Dry the outside of the can and replace the piece of tape

Fill the can with water

Pull the tape from the third hole down and put a nickel where the water first hits

Changing water pressure measures this stream

This can behaved differently as the third hole stream went as far as the bottom hole in the first can.

Measure how far the water goes

Dry the outside of the can and replace the piece of tape

Fill the can with water

Pull the bottom piece of tape and put a nickel where the water first hits

Measure how far the water goes

Remove the pieces of tape and dry the outside of the can

four holes taped up

It helps to hold the top of the can steady while pulling off the piece of tape.

Put one piece of tape covering all the holes

Set the can on the prop can

Fill the can with water

Pull the tape off quickly and place nickels where each stream of water hits the ground

[You may have to do this more than once to mark all the streams of water.]

Observe how the streams of water act

Measure how far the water goes for each hole


1st can:

Distance the water goes with one hole open

changing water level is changing water pressure

Opening one hole on the bottom let the stream of water go out 26 cm. It stayed that far for a time as the water level dropped then slowly moved closer to the can until it finally dribbled out as the water level reached the hole.

How the water acts as the can empties

Distance the water goes with all three holes open

How the water acts as the can empties

2nd can:

Distance for top hole

How the water stream acts as the can empties

Distance for top hole with all holes open

Distance for second hole

changing water pressure works until the level drops to the hole

Each time the stream of water is the longest at first and ends when the water level is the same as the hole.

How the water stream acts as the can empties

Distance for second hole with all holes open

Distance for third hole

How the water stream acts as the can empties

Distance for third hole with all holes open

marking with nickels

Nickels work well for marking the distances. They are easy to see. They are heavy enough the water stream can’t wash them away.

Distance for fourth hole

How the water stream acts as the can empties

Distance for fourth hole with all holes open

How the water acts as the can empties


For the first can, compare how the water stream with one hole open acts with how the three act with all the holes open.

three holes makes changing water pressure faster

The three streams went out a shorter distance than for a single hole. The water level l was the same over all three but the water had more than one way to go so less went out each hole.

For the first can, is the water pressure the same for all the holes? Why do you think so?

Is the rate of changing water pressure the same for all the holes? Why do you think so?

For the second can, is the water pressure the same for all the holes? Why do you think so?

Is the rate of changing water pressure the same for all the holes? Why do you think so?

Does where a hole is placed in a container affect how water empties out of the container?

changing water pressure changes distances

All four distances were a little less than for single holes.

For the second can, compare how the water stream for the third hole acts with only that hole open to when all the holes are open.

Describe the changing water pressure as a can empties out.

Use the changing water pressure to explain how the water streams act as a can empties.

Do you think changing the sizes of the holes would change how the can empties?

Do you think making the holes different sizes would change how the can empties?

[You can try this and compare your ideas with what happens.]


What I Found Out:

My holes were a little high around the can. I put the tapes pieces over the three holes, set the can up and filled it with water. One tape dripped a little.

I steadied the can with one hand and pulled one piece of tape off. The stream of water went out. I marked it. It stayed going that far for a long time then gradually moved in until it was a dribble down the side of the can.

It was hard to dry the can until I got a towel. Then the tape went over all three holes. This time I steadied the can and jerked the tape off. Three streams of water shot out.

I marked the distance for one stream but the streams moved in faster than the single stream did. The three were soon dribbled down the side of the can.

For the single stream the distance was 26 cm. The distance with all three streams going was 23 cm.

The three streams acted much the same as the single stream except for being a little shorter and losing distance much faster. Since all the holes were the same distance up from the bottom of the can and the water was as deep over all the holes, they had the same water pressure on them. That made the rate of changing water pressure the same for all of them because the water level dropped the same over all of them.

Having the holes lined up from top to bottom of the can made the water act differently for each hole. The top hole water stream went the shortest distance, only 16 cm. The water stream shortened to a dribble very quickly.

The hole next down put out a longer stream, 24.5 cm. This stream lasted longer too.

The third hole had an even longer stream, 26 cm, and lasted longer too.

The fourth hole had the longest stream, 29 cm, and lasted the longest too.

four holes show changing water pressure

The water level dropped very quickly with all four holes open. This made it hard to mark all four streams at one test.

The water streams acted the same as for the three holes. Changing water pressure caused the streams to get shorter until they dribbled as the water level dropped to the hole level.

These holes had different water pressure behind them as the water column over each was different.

When all four holes were opened up, the streams of water were shorter. The changing water pressure made the streams change distance quickly. I had to refill the can to get all of them marked.

Making all the holes larger would let the water out faster. I think the streams would be shorter too because making the hole at the end of a hose makes the water go farther.

If the holes were different sizes, the water would go out the larger holes faster so the changing water pressure would make the streams get shorter faster.