Everybody Wins on July 30 at the Fifth Annual Froggy Family Fundraiser Scavenger Hunt!

This is a Female Green Frog, but how do I know? Photo Credit Rafi Knispel-Heyworth

What does Miss Froggy, sitting on our log, care about what plants are growing around her?  

The whole purpose of the landscaping at 65 State Street is to provide a happy environment for frogs as well as for other wildlife and humans as well. We need each other!  

While our lively Fifth Annual Froggy Family Fundraiser fliers for July 30 appeal to families with children we do have some serious challenges as well. One of these is an artistic and informative scavenger hunt for people of all ages to find some of the many native plants on our property and answer questions about them.

All of the information necessary to answer these questions is contained below with broad hints with highlighting.

If you want to have a head start and be among the first to hand in your booklet to win a prize, or just are a nerd about gardening information, read on!

Even if you don’t take part in the scavenger hunt, the scoop (in this case not for the green ice cream) below is definitely worth knowing.

Waterlilies with snails and a frog’s leg (not for human consumption!) Photo credit, Robert Corby

Why are native plants important for frogs?

Tadpoles feed on algae and soft mosses, both of which you will find at our frog pond. Waterlilies provide shelter and a perfect place for sunning. We have some blue flag iris as well as many varieties of grasses, and native plants of diverse sizes and heights which provide cover from predators.  

We have had a varying number of green frogs, from our initial Bonnie, Clyde, Hopalong and Cassidy, to at least 15 on one day. Green frogs can travel as far as 3 miles from where they are born, smelling the water that attracts them.  

We provide shelter and migration corridors to wayfaring strangers. We know we provide a winter haven, because every spring when we clean the pool, there are frogs.  

Although we have provided a “nursery” with water that is not flowing for hatching eggs, the bigger frogs hang out there. We have seen smaller frogs about, but not yet seen any tadpoles.  

Logs provide insects of various sorts, as well as favorite resting spots, along with rocks for sitting and a way to climb out of the pond.

Of course, frogs like and digest best their own native insects, which may not be able to feed on non-native plants. Therefore, non-native plants often cannot be pollinated.

Frogs are the rationale for this extensive blog and the scavenger hunt focusing on our Pollinator Pathway Property.

Cardinal Flowers, Courtesy of Walters Gardens

1. What animal pollinates Cardinal Flowers?

Bats like, and therefore, pollinate, mango, banana, durian, guava and agave, so they are particularly important for these fruits in tropical climates. In northern climates, they have to be content with meat, like a good mouthful of mosquitos and other night flying insects, such as moths.

Bees abound in every continent except in Antartica. The Honey Bee was not born and raised in North America. However, we have 4,000 native bees here in every kind of biome: aquatic (yes, wetlands, such as mangroves, marshes and swamps) desert, forest, grassland, and even the Alaskan tundra.

Bees pollinate dozens of plants, most of which you will find at A Frog House: basil, bee balm, borage, cardinal flowers, dandelion, echinacea, lavender, milkweed, rosemary, sunflowers, verbena, yarrow and zinnia.

Hummingbirds like bellflowers (for example, cardinal flowers), hibiscus, lilies and roses.

Like bats, the southerner moth will pollinate southern gardenia, morning glory, tobacco and yucca. Morning glory is common in the north, but its a rebel!

You never would think of a frog being a pollinator, but just this year the first pollinating amphibians (Izecksohn’s Brazilian tree frogs, or Xenohyla truncata) known to science were discovered inadvertently covered in sticky pollen grains after pushing each other around to get to eat the fruit and quaff the nectar from flowers of the milk fruit tree, and moving from flower to flower. As usual “more research is needed.”  

Anise Hyssop, Photo Credit Rafi Knispel-Heyworth

2. What is true about Anise Hyssop?

Just as one animal may pollinate many native plants, so one plant can attract more than one pollinator. Anise hyssop attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds for many of the warmer months.

This fragrant licorice smelling leaf can be eaten as a seasoning, in a salad, made into jellies, or rubbed on the skin to keep mosquitos away.  

  • As a poultice it is used to treat burns,
  • as an essential oil Herpes simplex 1 and II,
  • as a salve, wounds,
  • as a wash, itching from poison ivy,
  • as an infusion, cold, an expectorant, or
  • as an infusion, hot, to induce sweating for breaking of fevers,
  • as an incense, an antidepressant.

Information from the Philadelphia Orchard Project, Keep Calm and Anise Hyssop by Intern Lucia Kearney.

Feverfew, Photo Credit Rafi Knispel-Heyworth

3. Which of the following plants have medicinal properties?

In Puritan times, and even sometimes these days, using native plants for medicinal purposes was and is looked on as “witchcraft”. Nevertheless, there is very good scientific evidence for ancient practices having excellent healing powers.

You may already know about the Native American use of Black Cohosh, California Poppy, Coneflower (Echinacea), Elderberry, Feverfew, Gooseberry, Milkweed,  Nettles, Persimmon and Witch Hazel. How about Spruce, Willow and Yew?  

Map Expo provides a list of 23 additional medicinal plants used by Native Americans: Ashwaganda, Black Gum Bark, Blackberry, Buck Brush, Cattail, Devil’s Claw, Greenbriar, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Licorice Root, Mint, Mullein, Prickly Pear Cactus, Red Clover, Rosemary, Saw Palmetto, Sage, Saw Pimento, Slippery Elm, Sumac, Uva Ursi, Wild Ginger, Wild Rose, Yarrow.

Not yet quite Golden Zizia, Photo Credit Rafi Knispel-Heyworth

4. Which of these plants is not in the mint family?

Botanists classify plants by their aromas, the shape of their stems, the type and placement of their leaves, and the shape of their flowers.  Mint smells can be detected easily, and mint has square stems, simple paired leaves, and tubular flowers that are open mouthed and two lipped.  

There are more than two dozen major genera and species in the mint family (Lamiaceae).

You can find a listing here, but may be able to answer the question by studying the photo above of the plant with round stems in the Aplaceae family (carrot, celery, parsley, Queen Anne’s Lace) and inflorescence (a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches).

Patty’s Permaculture Garden, Photo Credit Robert Corby

5. What is not true about Elderberries?

Can you find the elderberry shrub in the photo of the garden above?  There are three in the actual garden that look alike, although they are of different sizes.  

Elderberries are popular with bees, wasps and beetles, birds and mammals, including humans. Although I take a syrup twice a day for my own immune system,  and haven’t had a cold or the flu since I started using it in December 2019, I don’t expect to harvest my own berries from our three burgeoning shrubs for wine, fruit pies, jams or preserves. I am a grower, not a cook.

You are welcome to come back and pick some in August, but be sure not to eat the berries raw unless you have an iron stomach.  Members of the same family include the decorative Viburnums.  

Pink Sundrops, Photo Credit Rafi Knispel-Heyworth

6. Which of these plants is in the same family as Pink Sundrops?

Asters, black eyed Susan, brown eyed Susan, daisies, goldenrod, and sunflower all belong to the same family, Asteraceae, ancestors of which are thought to have been around 88–89 million years ago.

My own 6 brown eyed Susans did not survive the rock garden planting, but you will find forms of asters, daisies (including the nonnative Shasta daisy), goldenrod and sunflowers around the gardens.  

Pink sundrops, also known as narrow leaf evening primrose, are native to New York, and throughout North America. They bloom only for a day, but throughout a two month season. They are good drought resistant ground covers.  

Common evening primrose spreads itself everywhere in our garden, and is subject to mildew, but I keep it selectively. As its blossoms open at night (hence its name), night-flying moths like it. These moths in turn are delectable to our toads, which are nocturnal feeders.

Evening primrose oil is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), used topically by Native Americans for skin inflammation, bruises and wounds. and orally for premenstrual and menopausal symptoms, and arthritis, although the scientific evidence for the benefits of these uses is scanty.

The evening primrose family, Onagraceae, includes 650 species of herbs, shrubs and trees.

Astilbe, Photo Credit Robert Corby

7. What is not true about Astilbe?

Every part of this beautiful plant is totally safe for all pets and humans to munch on. It has been used medicinally for bleeding during childbirth, body ache, bronchitis, cancer, diarrhea, dysentary, headache, inflammation and ulcer.  

Specifically, the fragrant grape-like or bayberry/holly scent of Astilbe attracts many pollinators, including butterflies, dragon flies, flower, or hover, flies, and bees. This same odor is unattractive to rabbits and deer, so it is handily hardy in a vulnerable edible garden.

The common unpopular housefly is a pollinator of fruits and vegetables, so you won’t find it hanging out on this plant.

Rough goldenrod stems in Patty’s Permaculture Garden, Photo Credit Rafi Knispel-Heyworth

8. What is true about Goldenrod?                

Goldenrod, with many different forms in our garden, is a late bloomer, but provides pollinators, including monarch butterflies, a great source of nectar when other nutritious plants have stopped blooming. It is in the Asteraceae family, as mentioned above.

Goldenrod (animal pollinated) is falsely blamed for the seasonal allergies caused by its cousin, ragweed, (wind pollinated) in the same family, non-native to the Northeastern United States. Don’t blame the “Astors”: every family might have their bad actors. The inconspicuous ragweed is blowing pollen at the same time that our eyes are looking at the showy goldenrod flowers, so the “good kid” gets the blame.

The leaves of the two plants are very different, with ragweed leaves looking a lot more like bushy fern, wild carrot or poison hemlock. Ragweed has many branches from the bottom of the plant, and most importantly, no brilliant yellow flowers.

By a process of allelopathy, goldenrod is great for over-seeding, as its rhizomous roots produce a chemical that discourages invasive, non-native or other undesirable neighbors.

Oxeye “false” sunflower, Photo credit Robert Corby

9. What are good reasons to plant Woodland Sunflowers?

Speaking of bright yellow flowers, this happy daisy like flower is native to northeastern United States, as opposed to the common sunflower, which most likely is native to Mexico and in the inland western range of the United States.

Interestingly, since the middle of the 18th century sunflower has been grown in the steppes of Ukraine and has become the National Flower of Ukraine.  Consider donating to this non profit organization, Sunflower of Peace, to provide medical and humanitarian aid to areas devastated by the Russian invasion.

Woodland Sunflowers, Photo credit Rafi Knispel-Heyworth

We also have some woodland sunflowers, not in blossom as of this writing, and probably needing to be transplanted from too deep shade. The woodland sunflower attracts honey and native bees, including at least 6 species of specialty bees (that only pollinate this species, as well as beneficial wasps.

It hosts pollinating flies, checkerspot and painted lady butterflies, skippers (an intermediate form between butterflies and moths) and some moths. Birds and small mammals, as do we humans, eat the seeds. Unfortunately a number of insects and beetles can be pesky and nibble the leaves.  

Our native ancestors ate the seeds as well, and used the oil for body paint and/or pomades. The seeds produce purple dye, and the flowers, yellow dye. Leaves can be used for poultices for sores, snake and spider bites, and teas for lung ailments.  

Sunflowers in general are phytoremediators, meaning that they remove heavy metals from contaminated soil, even being used after nuclear incidents to absorb radiation. Humans are so good at ruining the environment, but plants are so good for healing it, that we all need to get with the language of plants and trees.

And to celebrate the young who are about to inherit the messes we have made, biologically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually, let us laud the work of Catie Kitrinos as an undergraduate majoring in biology and anthropology at the University of Virginia in 2014, studying this phenomena.

Apparently after two years in Japan, she has gone on to work as a doctoral student in comparative primatology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  

Swamp Milkweed, Photo credit Robert Corby.

10. What is the only plant monarch butterflies lay their eggs on?

If you look, butterflies lay their eggs almost anywhere. Some of the flowering plants they like include American senna, aster, black eyed susan, blue vervain, coneflower, dusty miller, false hemlock, great water dock, indian paintbrush, pussy toes, sedum, shasta daisy, sunflower, and wild petunia.

Grasses, shrubs, and vines and trees also serve as hosts to butterflies.

The oak is most important host plant for dozens of species of butterflies. I am lucky enough to be nursing at least 5 oak saplings, which I have found here and there on the 65 State Street property while weeding. See if you can find at least 3 of them.  (They are both protected and marked).

There is some specialization, so if you want to attract a certain species, find the plant they most like. The monarch butterfly is the fussiest of all, and will only lay eggs on milkweed.  

By the way, the butterfly bush is an invasive plant native to Asia, and is discouraged by the Cornell Cooperative Extension Pollinator Friendly Garden Certification Program, so don’t be fooled and think it would be good for your garden to attract butterflies. No self respecting native butterfly would dream of laying its eggs on a butterfly bush.  

Happy Hunting!

See you at Fifth Annual Froggy Family Fun(d)raiser Birthday Party, and Margot Turns 83 Years Young with a scavenger hunt and other fun activities, great music, green ice cream and birthday cake.