This painted turtle dug a nest in a reader’s lawn. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAN AND KATHE WALTON

Iris roots contain toxin



Wild iris is blooming at the edges of my pond. This lovely wildflower looks much like those found in gardens. Its Latin name is Iris versicolor. Watch for patches of this lovely wildflower now growing in wet fields, woods and island ponds. The flowers are purple and marked with white and yellow. They have conspicuous dark purple veins. The leaves are like green swords. The rootstock is very poisonous, for it contains a powerful hepatic stimulant known as “iridin.”

Bumblebees, honeybees and bee-like flies perform the cross fertilization. To reach the nectar, the insect visitor must light on the showy sepal and crawl farther into the blossom. In so doing, the bee dislodges the yellow pollen in the passage. Pollen from a previous flower is deposited. Butterflies with long tongues go straight to the base of the flower for the nectar.

The iris family includes about 1,000 species, found in all lands except in the polar regions where the prolonged cold weather is too harsh.

A painted turtle dug its nest in a reader’s lawn this week and prompted some questions about what to do. My reply was that mother turtle probably knows best where she thinks the eggs will thrive and hatch out. Treat her nest spot with kindness and avoid bothering it, and maybe they’ll get to see the baby turtles hatching out and heading to the nearest pond.

There is no real homelife for turtles. The female lays the eggs, covers them up, moistens the area with body fluids, and that’s that for her part of reproducing the species. In due time, the eggs hatch in their underground nest. Turtle embryos possess wide tolerances to their surroundings, but they also are sensitive to temperatures around them. When the time is right, the the new baby turtles dig out and go to the nearest pond. Not all eggs escape predation, for skunks, foxes, raccoons and snakes are quite fond of turtle eggs. If you can find a copy of “The Year of the Turtle” by David M. Carroll, you’ll find it a fascinating read about turtles, with lots of beautiful illustrations. It was published in 1991 by Camden House Publishing.

Painted turtles are commonly seen in ponds and lakes on this island. They rest in the sun on partially submerged logs and rocks. Baby turtles are eaten by birds, big frogs some mammals and fishes.

As local island residents know, the little pond in Somesville is a great place to see birds and other wildlife. Eagles and ospreys are commonly seen sitting in the trees nearby or flying overhead always looking for the chance to grab a fish or maybe a duck. Eagles, as we have found out, like to steal fish already caught by ospreys. I remember an incident that took place in Sedgwick. Good friends were standing on their lawn talking and a freshly caught flounder fell from the sky and landed at their feet. They looked up in time to see an osprey flying off without its fish. In true Maine spirit, my friends yelled “thank you” to the bird and cooked the fish for their supper!

Ospreys often do the catching, and an eagle then swoops in, makes the osprey drop the fish and goes off with the fish for its supper. Ospreys also will change the position of the fish in their talons while flying off, for they like to carry the fish “head into the wind.” The flounder falling from the sky could have happened in a transfer. This was truly “manna from heaven.”

Watch the woods now for Clinton‘s lily. Recently I saw the large lily leaves coming up near Route 102A after you pass Seawall headed towards Bass Harbor. This flower produces pretty bell-like yellow blossoms that later turn into a cobalt blue berry, giving it its other name “blue-bead lily.” The blue-bead is even more beautiful than the blossom in my opinion. The plant has the name “Clinton’s lily,” for it was named after DeWitt Clinton, the botanist and statesman. He studied flowers as avidly as modern officials play golf or go fishing to escape the cares of state.

June is the month for wild creatures to be very busy with family cares. They may have families to feed or are waiting for eggs to hatch or young to be born, as is the case with snakes and mammals.

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Columnist
Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.
Ruth Grierson

Latest posts by Ruth Grierson (see all)