American toad

THE BROWNING TREES showing up on the roadside are black locusts that are being attacked by locust leaf miner. Despite the ominous look, the damage inflicted by this insect is mostly cosmetic and the hardy locusts will send out perfectly colored green leaves next spring.

Many native bushes are beginning to develop berries that will feed birds and mammals for the remainder of the summer and fall. Right now spicebush, silky dogwood and arrow-wood viburnum are producing abundant fruits.

Seen often around Frederick County are American toads (Bufo americanus), Eastern spadefoot toads (Scaphiopus holbrookii) and Fowler's toads (Bufo fowleri). Toads and frogs belong to the same order, Anura, and closely resemble one another. To scientists, toads are a type of frog with more coarse and bumpy or warty skin. Toads contribute to night sounds with calls during their mating period late spring through summer. Both toads and frogs are tailless amphibians and can absorb oxygen through their skin. Most toads also have glands behind the eyes that can excrete a white poison to inflame the mouth of a predator. After handling a toad, avoid touching your mouth and eyes until after washing your hands.

Wild petunia (Ruellia humilis and others in this genus) is a pretty little native that can spread even in hard-to-fill dry, partly shady areas. The lilac-blue flowers are similar to those of annual petunias, and this native has a long bloom time. The plants grow in clumps and can spread by seed. Butterflies use the plant both for nectar and as a larval host, and it has few disease problems. Do not buy seeds of Ruellia brittoniana or tweediana, Mexican wild petunia; it is highly invasive in the deep south and should not be planted.

Some wildlife species are able to adjust and adapt to manmade surroundings. One such case is the red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Red foxes inhabit a variety of habitats including woodlands, farmland, pastures and brush. Because they adapt to so many different environments, red foxes survive quite well in urban and suburban areas. Essentially, they have become urbanized; however, they are still wary of people. Although active during both day and night, you're most likely to see them at dusk or dawn.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Notes for 8/2/2009