HABITAT - the arrangement of food, water, cover,
and space -IS THE KEY.
newsletter is a place to share ideas, information, and help answer
some of your habitat and wildlife gardening concerns.
Native Plant Profile: Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus
Maryland Wildlife: Striped Skunk
The Green Hour
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Native Plant Profile...
Prickly Pear Cactus
Names: Prickly pear, Indian Fig
Height: ˝” to 1”, primarily prostrate in
General description: Flattened pads (Stems)
are jointed and are sprawling in nature, Leaves are small, temporary and found
at the edge of the flat wide pads. Bristles are found in tufts covering the
pads. These spines are fewer in number compared to the western variety of this
Flowers: Flowers bloom from June to August.
They are yellow in color. and sometimes have a reddish center. Blooms can be
Fruit: Fruit is purple to deep red in color,
Soil: Sandy, loamy also shale soils. Plant
does not tolerate damp or rich soils.
Light: Prefers full sun, can tolerate slight
Temperature: This is a cold tolerant
Use by wildlife: Native bees, such as bumble
bees will use the flowers for nectar; some use by butterflies for nectar. The
fleshy fruits are consumed by raccoon and opossum.
Landscaping Notes: This is our only
widespread eastern cactus. It is a Chesapeake Watershed Native found primarily
in the coastal plain. It is evergreen. Its low growing meandering shape makes it
an interesting plant in xeric plantings and container planting. Reproduces from
cactus pads stuck in the soil.
Important: Do not remove cactus from the
wild . In many parts of the eastern U.S. Prickly Pear Cactus are small colonies
that need protection from loss of habitat.
Maryland Wildlife: Striped Skunk
This well known omnivore is found over most of North America.
A mammal known for its color, which is black with 2 white stripes on
the back merging in a cap on the head and sometimes the shoulders.
Stripes can vary in width and can occasionally be absent. It is
not uncommon to have all black skunks.
creatures have a long bushy tail and a small triangle-shaped head, with
small beady, black eyes.
about the size of a house cat, and can weigh between 2 to 14 pounds.
Males are larger than females.
Skunks have short legs with webbed toes, with longer claws on the front
legs to aid in digging for food. The paws have an excellent sense of
They have small rounded ears, but good hearing.
Slow moving, skunks are good swimmers but not climbers.
Mainly silent but can make soft growling, chattering and purring sounds.
Skunks have anal glands that hold about a tablespoon of musk composed of
If threatened skunk will chatter, stamp front feet, arch tail over the
back and turn the rump towards the predator, with the tail straight
up and spray 10 to 15 feet.
The odor can be smelled for a long distance.
in the eyes of a predator can cause pain and temporary loss of
thought the striped skunk's coloration, being bold instead of
camouflage, indicates to other animals to leave it alone.
Interestingly, when male skunks fight they will not spray each
the spraying, skunks have few predators. The primary one is the Great
Horned Owl which will take young ones by swooping on top of them before
they have a chance to spray. However, owls have been reported to have
the faint smell of skunk on them.
Skunks mate from mid- February to mid- March.
The female gives birth 63 days later to 3 to 7 young with an average of
5 kits. She usually produces one litter per year.
The male mates with as many females as possible and does not help with the
care of the young.
Young are born blind and naked, but with the characteristic black and
white color pattern.
At 6 to 7 weeks the young are weaned at about the same time they are able
to spray if attacked.
The young stay with the mother until the following year learning to
omnivores skunks will eat insects, spiders, eggs, a variety of
vegetation, eggs and especially grubs. They feed on many lawn pests,
especially in the fall, when you may find small circular holes throughout the lawn
where they have been digging them up.
Found in woodlands and suburbs.
Like to use hollow logs and crevices.
like to be close to a source of water.
Nocturnal, active year around, but will fatten up in the fall to be
able to stay semi-dormant in harsh winter months.
Skunks will use other animals’ burrows, but can make their own.
In the winter female skunks and their young will stay in a burrow together,
sometimes with other females and their families.
Similar species found in Maryland:
eastern Spotted Skunk has been reported in eastern Allegheny County.
This skunk is smaller and about the size of a squirrel. It is about 1 to
2 pounds in weight and 1 foot in length. This skunk is a good climber
and sprays by turning its back, standing on its front feet and then
Did you know?
The Green Hour for Children
Looking for another idea to involve your children
in the outdoors? This one is inexpensive, can be done anytime of year
and can involve all of the family. It is called the “Green Hour”, a term
trade marked by the National Wildlife Federation, (NWF). What is it? It
is taking one hour a day everyday and spending it outdoors, without a
radio, or other electronic device.
The “Green Hour” can be one hour of unstructured
play in the outdoors. Let the children just explore and enjoy nature on
their own. It can be in the backyard, nearby woods or local park.
Studies have shown that allowing for time to just explore nature
improves imaginations and attention spans.
There may be “Green Hours” where you might want to
do some informal activities. Some ideas for this are fishing, looking
for insects, making and watching what comes to a bird feeder, planting
and tending a small wildlife garden, looking at clouds or taking a hike.
The Wild Acres site has sections on animal tracking, making bird feeders
and other similar activities that you can adapt to your child’s age and
The National Wildlife Federation has a web site
devoted to the “Green Hour” at
www.Greenhour.org . This site serves a forum for people to share
ideas about what they have been doing that works and is fun.
If you would like to share what is working for you
to get your children outside and involved with helping you
create a “Wild Acres,” we would enjoy hearing from you! Contact us
"Xeri" means dry and "scape" is view.
This term, xeriscaping, was coined by the Denver Water Department in
1978. The term means plantings that do not require supplemental
Does it mean using sand and desert plants?
No, it depends on the climate what you will use to create a water
conserving landscape. You are using drought tolerant landscaping. Native
plants will be good choices to use, as they have evolved to withstand
the varying precipitation cycles of your climate, plus they provide food
and cover for wildlife.
Group plants with similar water requirements together.
Pick drought-tolerant species.
If possible channel water to the site, such as the runoff
from a rain spout.
Use soak irrigation; use soak hoses instead of sprinklers.
Mulch the site.
Prune when necessary.
Fertilize only when needed. Slow release types are
Following these suggestions will produce:
Here are some suggestions for plantings in Maryland
Trees and Shrubs
|Purple Cone flowers
If you enjoyed this issue of Habichat, you might want to check out
our online back issues and clickable listing of Habichat articles.
Click here for online back issues.
Photograph of Prickly Pear Cactus amidst ferns,
courtesy of Thomas G. Barnes, University of Kentucky
Photograph of Prickly-pear Cactus in flower, courtesy
of Richard H. Wiegand
Photograph of Striped Skunk in grass (also used in header
artwork), courtesy of Erwin C.
Nielsen/Painet Inc., Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Photograph of baby skunk in tree, courtesy of Robert Barber/Painet
Inc., Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Collage for The Green Hour: Photos courtesy of Microsoft
Clip Art and Media.
Photograph of xeriscape planting at edge of sidewalk, courtesy of
Chesapeake Ecology Center in Annapolis, Md. (www.ChesapeakeEcologyCenter.org)
Photograph of xeriscape planting in front of building,
courtesy of Kerry Johnson, PhD., Area Horticulturist, MSU Extension Service, Mississippi Gardens Newspaper and Web Column - May 17, 2004,
Mississippi State University
Here is a listing of phone numbers, web sites and organizations that you might find helpful or interesting in your search for ideas to manage your wild acres.
DNR Online... Inspired by nature!
Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at
backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North
America. FeederWatchers periodically count the highest numbers of each
species they see at their feeders from November through early April.
FeederWatch helps scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird
populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance. Project
FeederWatch is operated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership
with the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, and Canadian
Nature Federation. http://birds.cornell.edu/pfw
National Wildlife Federation - Details on their backyard habitat program www.nwf.org or call them at 1-800-822-9919.
Native plants - The Maryland Native Plant Society offers information dedicated to protecting, conserving and restoring Maryland's native plants and habitats, visit them at
Maryland Cooperative Extension offers home and garden information, tips publications, plant problems, Bay issues, and other links at
Their Home and Garden Information number is statewide and can be reached at
1-800-342-2507, and from outside Maryland at 1-410-531-1757.
Bioimages, a project of
Vanderbilt University, provides educational information to the public on
biologically related topics, as well as a source of biological images for
personal and non-commercial use.
Maryland's "Becoming an Outdoors - Woman Program
"- One of the topics covered in the three-day workshops is Backyard
For a free wildlife & native
plant newsletter, visit the WindStar Wildlife Institute at
and subscribe to the WindStar Wildlife Garden Weekly e-newsletter. You can
also visit this website to learn how you can become a certified wildlife habitat
For more information on butterflies - visit the North American Butterfly Association at
Warm season grasses and wild meadows for upland nesting birds visit Pheasants
Forever at www.pheasantsforever.org or e-mail:
We want to hear from you!
Letters, e-mail, photos, drawings. Let us know how
successful you are as you create wildlife habitat on
Write to Me!
Natural Resources Biologist II
Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service
MD Dept of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401
Access For All
Click here for online back issues.
Habichat, the newsletter for Maryland's Stewards of Backyard Wildlife, is published by the Wildlife and Heritage Service, Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
The facilities and services of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are available to all without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin, physical or mental disability. This document is available in alternative format upon request from a qualified individual with a disability.