Friday, March 12, 2010

Pink Peony Noses Roses Opossum and Other Blooms

The spectacular pink sunrises have faded now as the sun is rising further northeast. 
It is winter's gift to us to brighten each new chilling day.
Pink noses of peonies will swell and grow, as spring marches on towards the north. I cut them back last fall and was not able to spread the composted manure which awaits nearby with a case of tarpitis!
Another pink nose about the garden! This one is busy nosing about!

Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) 
Our very own native link to the mammals of the Marsupalia . . . yes like the Kangaroo! What a sweet face and the pink mirrored in its ears and nose is close to many of our roses. But certainly not our own delicate schnoz!

Hydrangeas and Sedum too have a pink tone similar to this small, ancient, marsupial's muzzle. 
Fossils have been found going back 70 million years . . . so many scientist believe these docile creature's ancestors might have dared to walk among or more likely . . .  to have hidden from dinosaurs! Rosey pink is also echoed in the pads of their paws. Their claws look a bit scary and witchy like (as does this profile!), but they are mostly used to dig and climb . . . all five toes wear one except their inner rear toes, which are thought to be like our human thumbs. You can see this in the second photo of the opossum above. She is such a good model to illustrate her thumb-like digit so well for me. They are able to grasp with their handy hairless tail, but are not known to hang from it . . . more prehensile to help their balance. In researching for this post, I was most astonished to learn that the opossum only gestates her babies for two weeks! She will lick them into this life, when they are only about the size of a honeybee . . . a bit smaller! Her young will blindly and nakedly crawl out of her womb, with the aid of her tongue exit her body and crawl up into her soft warm pouch, where they will find waiting for them tiny milky teats lined up in a horseshoe design. There are only thirteen teats (my lucky number) so bad luck if there are more than that number of babies that make it to the pouch. Once they latch on to the teat it will become a swollen permanent fixture in it's tiny mouth, for about two months. At this time their eyes will open and they may begin to explore the silver, fury realm outside of the pouch. Imagine that these little ones will be independent of their mother at around three months. Opossums are solitary and supposedly nomadic . . . they do not build nests or set up any sort of housekeeping but this one has been around for a few weeks. I have eyed it going under my barn studio . . . and I do wish it may consider the small rabbit lodging there fair game. It may have moved on now, for I was able to go outside and take the first photo shown here . . . only a few feet away from her. I confess I did wonder if she would play possum . . .  secretly hoped she would by my coming so close . . .  but I did not provoke the modest . . .  rather pretty small being. She must not have seen me as a predator or feared me that much, though she did amble off to some rocks beneath an old White Pine. Opossums are not assuming like raccoons and other shameless critters but they may partake of birdseed or mindlessly crawl into an open cellar. They seem to be strong in their immune systems (unlike some humans I could mention! Maybe I should start eating earthworms and carrion.) and rarely ever carry rabies . . .  so not to worry if you are lucky to be close enough to admire the beauty of the little opossum. Opossums . . .  or you might write possums . . . are mostly nocturnal and move about quite slowly, they do tend to meet their death too often by the bumper of an automobile. If you should see a dead opossum you think to be a female . . .  ( I have not the faintest idea how you would know from a distance.) she may be carrying a pouch full of live young that were not hurt in the accident. The little one featured here maybe carrying young now. Here is a link to give you more information and numbers to call if you find orphans . . .  The National Opossum Society. Now to a more flowery subject . . . it is 'Blooming Friday' and you can visit Katarina's Roses and Stuff to see other gardens from around the world.
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