Blooming Flowers, Bam Bam’s Waterfall Showers
May 22, 2021
TCWR is alive with the sights and sounds of springtime! In addition to the enthusiastic roars, chuffs, and grrrrrrs, so commonly heard at our refuge, wrens are trilling, chipmunks are scurrying (away from big cats!) and an array of scented herbs and native plantings are bursting forth to greet the day! The gentle spring sun is warming the earth, and the scent of blooms weighs heavily in the air!
Now that our bear residents have emerged from their winter torphor, all our animal residents are awake and ready to soak up the milder spring days! Bam Bam the grizzly, especially, adores the warmer months where his pool is full and more guests are flocking to see him! Additionally, each season gives us opportunities to spice up enrichment routines, and Spring is no exception. While supporters are kind enough to donate dried herbs for scent enrichment all year long, we’re fortunate to have a garden complete with fragrant flora. These fresh herbs are a true treat to entice the sniffers of every big cat and bear.
A quick survey of our Animal Enrichment Garden reveals an assortment of Salvias and Mints sprouting, from Chocolate, to Traditional, to Spearmint… and of course the ever-popular Catmint! Additional emerging perennials include Oregano and Thyme; and what herb garden would be complete without Lavender? We also find the ultra-aromatic Wild Bergamot, more commonly known as Bee-Balm, a butterfly and hummingbird favorite! This patch of herbaceous olfactory delights for our big cats is encircled by a bed of Roses and Day-Lillies, and accented by an occasional volunteer Bronze Fennel, from years gone by.
The other plants blooming across our beautiful slice of “Africa in the Ozarks” serve a purpose, too! Not only do they show off the beautiful Arkansas scenery, but they support native wildlife. We know the importance of biodiversity and many of our plants cater to vanishing pollinators: butterflies and bees! Our Education Team is comprised of Wildlife Interpreters who know which flowers are best for these creatures.
A quick stroll around the corner reveals a garden pond, now abloom with delicately colored flowers, cheerfully bobbing and swooning above the darkly colored lilly pads, that provide shade to the bright orange Coy fish playing below. To one side of the pond sits a raised flower bed, recently-planted with Native Perennials by our Education staff. Newly introduced plant varieties include:
- Brunnera macrophylla, which goes by several common names, including Siberian Bugloss, False Forget-Me-Not, and Brunnera. It has a slightly mottled leaf, with tiny blue flowers that dance high above its leaves.
- Lanceleaf Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) is a member of the Asteraceae family, and is native to most of the United States, parts of Canada, and Mexico, and makes a bright cheerful addition to any native perennial garden.
- Aster oblongifolius, more commonly referred to as Aromatic Aster, Shale Barren Aster, or even Wild Blue Aster, is highly attractive to native bees and butterflies. It is an essential nectar source for pollinating insects preparing for winter, as it tends to bloom when few other nectar sources are available.
- Rattlesnake Master is one of the host plants of the Black Swallowtail! It’s Latin name, Eryngium yuccifolium, comes from the fact that its leaves look very much like a Yucca plant. Other common names include Button Snakeroot, Yucca-leaf Eryngo, Corn Snakeroot, Rattlesnake Flag, and Rattlesnake Weed. Despite all of it’s snake-related names, it neither attracts or repels them, but instead gets its names from its supposed anti-venom properties!
- Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), are native to North America and one of the most popular wildflowers grown. They typically occur in open woods, prairies, fields, roadsides and disturbed areas.
- Milk weed: Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is one of about 115 species that occur in the Americas, and is the larval host plant for the Monarch Butterfly. Over 450 insects are known to feed on some portion of this plant!
- Mexican Hat is also known as Upright Prairie Coneflower & Long-headed Coneflower. It’s Latin Name is Ratibida columnaris, and it is a member of the Asteraceae family. It gets its name from its distinctive shape; a tall cone surrounded by drooping petals that look somewhat like a sombrero. Its foliage, deeply cleft leaves near the base, has a strong odor that is reported to work as a deer repellent!
In addition to finding newly- emerging plants, experiencing enticing natural aromas, and breathtaking panoramic views, you can be sure your springtime visit to TCWR will include seeing Bam Bam’s pool water level at its fullest… His waterfall blasting forth… and Bam Bam (the ham ham) all too eager to greet our guests!
Bam Bam says “Let the fun begin!”