|Flora and Fauna
a sampling of flowers and animals that can be found at Providence Prairie
|Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
This velvety biennial is a member of the Figwort family and produces a yellow
flowering spike from June - September that grows two to six feet tall. Its first year, it
has a rosette of wooly, basal leaves that can be up to twelve inches long. Its
second year, it sports its long spike of yellow flowers.
Long ago, the Romans would dip the dried flower spike in oil and use it as a torch.
Indians and pioneers alike would use the mullein’s leaves to line their moccasins
and shoes to keep out the chilly air. They also employed the leaves in teas to treat
colds and the roots for anything from croup to earache.
|Golden-crowned Kinglet (Régulus sátrapa)
This small bird matures at 3½ inches long. It is distinctly marked and
can be told from other tiny woodland birds by the bright stripe on its
head. This bird in particular ran into our window and was stunned for
the few minutes we held it, keeping it safe from the cat, until it flew
away. After research, we determined that it must be a male as the
female has a yellow crown instead of both orange and yellow. The
golden-crowned kinglet winters in our area and obviously, this one
chose Providence Prairie as his winter residence.
|Butterfly Weed; Pleurisy Root (Asclepias
This member of the milkweed family boasts bright
orange clusters of flowers that crown the leafy,
hairy stalk. Its vivid blossoms attract butterflies
when it blooms from June to September.
Its tough roots were often chewed by the Indians as
a cure for pleurisy, (an infection of the respiratory
tract which sometimes causes pain and difficulty in
breathing) giving it its second name, Pleurisy Root.
|Common Toad (Bufo woodhousei)
This familiar leaping amphibian is
commonly seen at night when it
emerges from its dwelling to feast on
insects that are attracted to light.
Female toads lay up to 8,000 eggs
which grow into adulthood in one to two
months. Toads are a wonderful means
to rid your garden of insects; as the
pests swarm in, the toads gobble them
up. You can lend a hand in maintaining
their habitat by providing a moist
environment and by placing broken
clay pots, upside-down around your
vegetable patch for them to live in.
|May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum)
This member of the Barberry family buds a single,
occasionally double, waxy white flower from April – June.
The flower nods from the crotch between the two lobed
leaves. It produces a large, fleshy lemon-like berry, and
grows 12 – 18 inches tall.
Its name refers to the main month that its apple-blossom-
like flower blooms. The edible golden-yellow fruit it
develops can be used to make jelly. The Indians used
the root as a cathartic, although the leaves, roots and
seeds can be poisonous if eaten in large quantities.
|Giant Walkingstick (Megaphasma dentricus)
As the largest North American walkingstick, this 3–5 inch insect
so closely resembles the habitat in which it lives that it is often
mistaken for a twig. The antenna extends half the length of its
body and it lives in wooded areas, grasslands and other
locations where it blends with its surroundings. As its main
defense, camouflage hides this insect from birds and the like
who would enjoy a tasty meal of it.
|Bird-foot Violet (Viola pedata)
This quaint perennial member of the violet family grows 3-6" tall in
dry sandy soil or in openings in the woods. The ¾-1½ inch flower
has five lavender colored petals and five green sepals. Toward
the throat of the lower petal, it fades to white and fine violet lines
run to the center acting as nectar guides for butterflies and bees.
It was named for the shape of its leaves as they are fashioned like
the foot of a bird, making them easily distinguishable from other
members of the violet family. The center of the flower is yellow to
orange and the copper colored seeds once mature are ejected
several inches away from the original plant. A sugary gel that is
on the seeds attracts ants which carry the seeds back to their nest
spreading the plants around. What a wonderful plan God has