Tag Archive | yellow

Yellowfinch ~ Spinus tristis

These little guys are so cute. They cling to the nyjer sock like little circus performers. During the winter, the males colors are muted, but sill brighter than the females. These guys stay here all year.

Goldfinches are very strict vegetarians. They will wait to nest until June/July when the thistle, milkweed and other fibrous seeds are in abundance. Other birds augment their young’s diet with insects, but not Goldfinches.


Here’s Mr. & Mrs. at the ‘sock’. His bright yellow coat is a joy to see after a long. cold winter.

wpid-2015-04-16-16.12.07.jpg.jpeg  .

Almost, not quite… Stay tuned, he’ll be all yellow soon.

© ~ Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Buddha’s Hand – Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis


I was at my local grocery store, when I noticed this oddity. I had no clue what it was, so a photograph would have to do until I could research it. This wasn’t for sale, ironically.

Turns out this is called a Buddha’s Hand.

It is believed that sometime after the fourth century, Buddhist monks carried this fruit from India to China, where it came to symbolize happiness, wealth and longevity. The Chinese like to use it as a centerpiece in their homes, and present it as an offering on temple altars. The Japanese like to use it as a decorative ornament and place it on top of specially pounded rice cakes, or they use it in lieu of flowers in the home’s sacred tokonomo (alcove).

Though esteemed chiefly for its exquisite form and aroma, the Buddha’s Hand citron is also prescribed as a stimulant, expectorant, and tonic in non-traditional medicine.


  • Seasonal centerpiece
  • A fragrant air freshener


  • Shave thin slices of Buddha’s hand and add it to a salad
  • Top steamed tofu or fish
  • Sugar and Salt: Use zest or a whole finger to make scented sugar and flavored salt
  • Zest mixed into cake frosting makes it very aromatic
  • For salad dressing:
    • 4 Tbsps olive oil – 1/2 teaspoon salt – 2 Tbsps Meyer Lemon juice – 2 Tbsps zested Buddha’s Hand
    • 1 Tbsps balsamic vinegar – 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried thyme, minced – 1 clove minced garlic
  • Combine all vinaigrette together in bowl and allow vinaigrette to marinade overnight.
  • Candied citrus peel – which you can eat by itself or use in baked goods.
  • Make infused vodka or flavored simple syrup for cocktails.

© Ilex Farrell

The Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)

The Old World Swallowtail (Papilio Machaon) is widespread and common throughout most of the northern hemisphere. Although in some countries, the Swallowtail and its subspecies are endangered. Papilio machaon is protected by law in six provinces of Austria, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova. The species is protected in the United Kingdom, and subsp. Papilio verityi is protected in India.


Swallowtail are highly adaptable, utilising a variety of habitats including:
• Sub-arctic tundra in Canada
• Prairies and woodlands in the south of North America
• Hay meadows, roadside verges, river banks and sub-alpine pastures in Europe
• High montane habitats in the Atlas mountains of North Africa
• Semi-cultivated habitats in the Mediterranean area
When Linnaeus first created the System Naturae, Papilio was the only genus name used for every species of butterfly. Things have been a bit more organized since then! Only about 215 of the 17600 currently known species have remained in Papilio genus.


Plant It and They Will Come!
Female’s seek out plants of family Umbelliferae and Asteraceae family to deposit eggs on, as it is their favourite food. The food plants of the swallowtail North America are more varied than in the UK.
• Wild carrot / Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
• Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris)
• Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
• Hogweeds (Heracleum)
• Wormwood or sagebush (Artimesia)
• Butterbur (Petasites hybridus)
• Cow parsnip (Heracleum)
The young caterpillar is black, marked with a stripe of white. It looks strangely like bird poop as it sits on leaves. When mature in July, it is a most colorful – bright green, marked with narrow black bands and orange spots. Behind it’s head is an eversible fleshy pink forked structure called an osmaterium, which is raised if the larva is alarmed. This organ emits pungent chemicals, capable of deterring ants, wasps and flies, however not birds, who find them a nice snack.
The chrysalis is attached vertically by a thin silken thread, usually low down on the stem of the host plant, where it hibernates until the following spring.

Chenille de Grand porte queue (macaon)" by Didier Descouens

“Chenille de Grand porte queue (macaon)”  by Didier Descouens

© Ilex – Midwestern Plants

Signs of Spring in the Midwest: Yellow Willows (Salix)

One of the first signs of spring (to me) is when the willows start to turn bright yellow. You can’t miss them in the dreary, white, Midwestern landscape.


Some Facts About the Willow (Salix):

  • When compared to other trees, life span of a weeping willow is shorter because of its fast growing nature, some don’t thrive past 30 years.
  • They need to be grown in full sun.
  • Their height and width can be 30 to 55 feet. Willows can grow 10 inches in a good growing year.
  • The fruit of the tree is a small brown capsule. It is around half-inch long.
  • The tree is very brittle because it grows quite rapidly.
  • The bark turns reddish/brown during the winter and yellow/green in the spring.
  • Pests like aphids and tent caterpillars can destroy the tree quite quickly. You should frequently check for conditions like powdery mildew, crown gall, and canker.
  • You may cut some branches in spring, remove the bottom leaves and put them in a jar of water. Keep the jar out in the sun. Roots will grow within 15 to 20 days. However, if you want a specific variety, it is better to buy it.
  • Historically, beautiful baskets are woven using willow stems.

Country folk have known the healing properties of willow for a long time. They made an infusion from the bark as a remedy for colds, fevers, and to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatism. Young willow twigs were also chewed to relieve pain. In the early nineteenth century, modern science isolated the active ingredient responsible, salicylic acid, which was also found in the meadowsweet plant Filipendula ulmaria. From this the world’s first synthetic drug, acetylasylic acid, was developed and marketed as Aspirin, named after the old botanical name for meadowsweet, Spirea ulmaria. Botanists love to change the names of plants!

Most willow species grow and prosper close to water or in damp places, and this premise is reflected in the legends associated with these trees. The moon too recurs as a theme, the movement of water being intimately connected with and affected by the moon. For example, Hecate the powerful Greek goddess of the moon and of willow, also taught sorcery and witchcraft, and was ‘a mighty and formidable divinity of the Underworld’. Helice was also associated with water, and her priestesses utilized willow in their water magic and witchcraft. The willow muse, called Heliconian after Helice, was sacred to poets, and the Greek poet Orpheus brought willow branches on his adventures in the Underworld. Apollo also gave Orpheus a lyre, and it is interesting to note that the sound boxes of harps used to be carved from solid willow wood.

© Ilex – Midwestern Plants