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We are in debt to our Sassafras trees

The Delaware state champion Sassafras, Cercis canadensis, can be found on the grounds of the Wilmington & Brandywine Cemetary, 701 Delaware Ave., Wilmington. It has a height of 63 feet andf a CBH (circumference) of 157 inches, which would equal a diameter of about 50 inches.

Common throughout Delaware, this tree is usually found on sandy soils but does not thrive in shade. It is easily recognized by its green twigs, variably shaped leaves

(including mitten shapes), and spicy aroma. It is a great native tree for urban areas because of its fast growth and brilliant fall color. Sassafras roots are used for tea and many animals and birds eat the tree’s berries. While its orange-brown wood is

light and durable, it seldom reaches a size suitable for lumber.

Source: "Big Trees of Delaware, 5th edition"

Sassafras blossoms and young leaves - 5/8/2023

An ode to the Sassafras

I love the Sassafras tree

With three fingered hands,

And a smell reminiscent

Of root beer stands.

Sass – a - fras, sass – a - fras,


It’s fun to say it s-l-o-w,


Steve Childers


Five-lined Skink

While walking along the Abbotts Mill Nature Center stream-side boardwalk last weekend, I happened on this young Five-lined skink on a stump, the first I've seen this year. It was cool, so it was easy to get in close for these pictures.

Young Five-lined Skink, with part of its tail missing

Five-lined skinks are very common all over Delaware, and can often be found scurrying across the warm concrete outside the front door of Abbotts Mill Nature Center. Able to squeeze through small openings, it is not unusual to find one that has made its way inside as well.

5-8 ½ inches long, five-lined skinks have a blackish body and five whiteish stripes, two on each side and one down the middle of their back. Young five-lined skinks have a bright blue tail, while adults often loose their stripes and develop a reddish head.

If captured, five-lined skinks will break off their tails, which will then twitch alone, distracting a predator and allowing the lizard to escape.

World-wide, skinks are the second most common lizard, after geckos. Skinks have short legs, or even no legs at all, while non-skink lizards have legs that are a bit longer. Skinks are harmless lizards that mostly eat insects and spiders.

We highly recommend that skinks, and all other wild critters, NOT be captured and kept as pets. Proper care for a skink would involve providing a steady supply of healthful food and water for up to ten years.


Bees and wasps are starting to appear, so here's a humorous, but very true (especially the Yellow Jacket) guide to Yellow Stripey Things.

Remember this; if it looks like a Bumble Bee, but it's flying around the eaves of your house, it's a Carpenter Bee. It won't hurt YOU, but it is trying to tunnel into your house. They lay their eggs in the 3/8" tunnels they bore, with some food and seal them in. When the young bees hatch, they chew their way out. A badminton racket will help you win a battle with them.

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