Monday, August 25, 2008

Horse Sugar

No, Horse Sugar is not a polite way to curse. Horse Sugar (Symplocos tinctoria) is a shrub or small tree with dense clusters of fragrant flowers. The name is derived from the fact that horses (and cows and deer) readily consume the leaves. Even hikers can consume the leaves for a refreshing trailside treat!

Horse Sugar blooms between March and May. Now, however, the fruit is on the plant and it is attracting the attention of Red-eyed Vireos (Vireo olivaceus). The Red-eyed Vireos, like many other bird species, are preparing for their migration and need to add fat reserves for their journey to South America. As the rain as come and gone throughout the day, so have the Red-eyed Vireos. They are quite particular as to which fruit they select. The green fruit is eyed with a cock of the head and left, while the purple fruit is plucked and swallowed whole.

It has been a pleasant distraction watching the vireos forage outside the office window. If fact, it's snack time for us too! Now, where is that apple?

Images by Mark Musselman

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