Scientific Name: Spatula discors
Common Name(s): Blue-winged Teal
The blue-winged teal is one of the smaller dabbling ducks. The adult teal is 16 inches long, has a 23-inch wingspan, and weighs about 13 ounces. Males and females have slightly different colorations, but they both have sky-blue wing coverts (the feathers in the middle of the wing), green feathers on the wing near the birds’ armpit, and yellow legs. Males have a brown body with dark speckling on the breast, a slate-blue head with a white crescent behind the bill, and a small white flank patch in front of the black rear. Females are mottled brown and have a whitish area at the base of the bill.
The blue winged teal is found in North America, where it breeds from southern Alaska to Nova Scotia, and south to northern Texas. It winters along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and south into the Caribbean islands and Central America.
The blue-winged teal feeds by dabbling in shallow water at the edge of water bodies. They mainly eat plants, but they occasionally eat mollusks and aquatic insects. Due to their diet, blue-winged teal prefer to inhabit shorelines, especially those with dense vegetation, more often than open water. They build their nesting sites on dry ground in grassy areas, but their nests are usually within a few hundred yards of open water.
These are the last dabbling ducks to nest, usually nesting from late April to May. Teal create nests by making a shallow depression in the ground lined with grass in an area surrounded by vegetation. Females lay 10-12 eggs each season and incubate eggs for 23-24 days. Once hatched, young ducks leave the nest within 24 hours. The Mother teal will help their young forage for the first few weeks, after which they are left on their own. Within 6-7 weeks of hatching, juveniles are ready to fly.
Common predators of blue-winged teal include humans, snakes, snapping turtles, dogs, crows, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. During nesting, blue-winged teal lose their eggs mainly to skunks, crows, and magpies.
Here in Bella Vista, blue-winged teal would most likely be spotted flying or resting on a lake on their way to or from breeding sites out of state.
Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus mykiss; synonyms Salmo mykiss; Salmo gairdneri
Common Name(s): Rainbow Trout; Many names for subspecies (e.g. Steelhead, Golden)
The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is easily distinguished from similar trout. Rainbow trout in Arkansas typically range from 9 – 12 inches in length and weight 0.3 – 0.5 lbs. However, individuals weighing 2 – 4 lbs. are common with the current state record at 19 lbs. 1 oz. (White River). The rainbow trout has a moderately large mouth extending to the rear of the eye. The tail fin is slightly forked. The top of the fish is typically a shade of dark olive green, while the belly is much lighter. Many dark spots cover the body. The midline of the fish has a pinkish or reddish streak from gill flaps to tail. Like all trout, the rainbow trout has an adipose fin, which is a small fleshy projection on the back, just in front of the tail fin.
The rainbow trout is native to the western coast of North America where it inhabits both coastal waters and freshwater river systems from Southern Alaska to Northern Mexico. The species has been stocked extensively across the United States and many other countries across the world.
The rainbow trout is a cold water fish, and cannot tolerate water much over 72°F for any considerable length of time. In states with warmer waters, rainbow trout have to be stocked annually each fall to replenish those that succumb to high temperatures in summer. In Arkansas, this fish does well in the cold tailwaters of larger reservoirs and deep cool reservoirs if oxygen is not a limiting factor.
Natural spawning is limited in Arkansas because of the warmer waters. When spawning does occur, it happens in swift gravely riffles. Females dig shallow pits, lay their eggs in the pits, and then cover with gravel while the males fertilizes the eggs. The eggs and young fish receive no parental care. rainbow trout consume aquatic and terrestrial insects, small fish, snails, and crustaceans.
In many states, the rainbow trout is considered to have negative impacts on native ecosystems, eating many native fish, or out-competing them for food resources. They also hybridize readily with rarer trout species including golden trout, lowering the genetic integrity of endangered populations.
Special Notes Concerning Lake Brittany:
Here in Bella Vista, rainbow trout are stocked in Lake Brittany during the winter months. This program has a dedicated following of hard core winter anglers that consistently see payoff for their efforts. Without giving away too many of their secrets, success can be had by fishing off of the docks or on the bank of the dam in winter with a rooster tail or power bait. Trout do survive the summer on Lake Brittany. They can be caught suspended in about 18 – 22 feet of water throughout the summer months. Stocking in Lake Brittany typically starts in early November and continues monthly through April.
Scientific Name: Impatiens capensis
Common Name(s): Jewelweed, Orange Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-me-not
Photos by Kayla Sayre, Bella Vista POA Fisheries & Water Quality Sr.
Jewelweed is a tall, branching herbaceous annual plant with orange and red speckled flowers. These orange-speckled flowers have five petals, and one of the sepals is modified into a pouch structure that gives the flower a cornucopia shape. Jewelweed can grow to heights of 2 to 5 feet and widths of 2 feet. It has brittle, watery, and almost translucent branching stems. The stems can be pale green to red and come off a shallow branching taproot. The leaves are arranged around the stem in an alternating pattern. Jewelweed is in the touch-me-not family (Balsaminaceae). The fruit capsules burst and expel seeds with the slightest touch.
Yellow jewelweed is a rare plant to find and can accompany orange jewelweed. Yellow jewelweed is distinguished from orange jewelweed by its flower, which is larger and yellow. Additionally, yellow jewelweed tends to be a larger plant. The cultivated Impatiens walleriana is closely related and is the most popular bedding plant in the United States.
Jewelweed is found in most of the United States, excluding Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, California, and Alaska.
Jewelweed is an annual, so it dies in the winter and new plants grow from the seeds produced in previous years. Jewelweed flowers bloom from late summer until the first frost. Jewelweed makes two types of flowers and seeds. It produces its typical flowers (shown above) that insects and hummingbirds cross-pollinate. The second flower is small and inconspicuous and originates near the base of the leaves. The small flower is self-fertile (circled in picture above). Flowers that self-fertilize in this manner are called cleistogamous. The cross-pollinated seed produces more robust and larger plants, but the cleistogamous flowers create seeds at a much lower energy cost to the plant. Having two seed production modes makes jewelweed more adaptable to different environmental conditions.
Once established, jewelweed continues to produce vast stands of plants. Jewelweed prefers moist soil and partial sun. It does well in edge habitats- including forest edges, floodplain forests, lakesides, stream sides, marsh edges, and bog edges. It also does well in disturbed habitats such as ditches, lowlands, and roadcuts. Interestingly, jewelweed is one of the few aggressively native species, which makes it a good plant for habitat restoration since it can out-compete invasive species such as garlic mustard. It also does well on landscapes managed using prescribed burns.
Historically Indigenous peoples used the sap from the stems and leaves to relieve skin conditions such as itch and pain from poison ivy and stinging nettle, as well as hives and other skin irritants. The sap has anti-fungal properties and was historically used to treat athletes-foot. The berries can be toxic, especially if eaten by children.
Jewelweed grows at Tanyard Creek and along the drainage into Windsor Lake at London Landing. Look for it along the lakeshores, streamsides, and drainage areas in Bella Vista. Jewelweed would be a beautiful addition to any backyard in Bella Vista, especially since they do well along forest edges and lakeshores. It is easily cultivated by direct sowing in the fall. Once established, it continues to maintain itself through annual seed production. Jewelweed attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It is also mildly deer resistant.
Scientific Name: Vernonia spp.
Common Name (s): Ironweeds
Arkansas Ironweed – Vernonia arkansana
Photos by Kayla Sayre, Bella Vista POA Fisheries & Water Quality Sr. Technician
Ironweed is a genus in the family Asteraceae which also includes asters, sunflowers, and daisies. Ironweed has fuzzy or puffed flowers that are dark purple and sometimes magenta. Secondary stems come off the primary stem and branch continuously to form florets or flowers. There are 50 to 120 flowers per plant. Most, but not all, species in this genus have fuzzy hair covering their leaves and stems, which may make them look green gray from various angles. The leaves are simple and pinnate and are arranged alternately, or in a spiral, around the stem. Some species in this genus have toothed margins along the leaves but may be smooth depending on their distribution. The stem produces a milky sap when broken. There are eighteen species in this genus in North America, with eight species found in Arkansas.
One notable and easily identified species in this genus is the Arkansas ironweed or curly-top ironweed. It can grow to heights of 4 to 6 feet and widths of 3 to 4 feet. It is easily identified by the curly, thin, hair-like green-gray involucre (or whirled) bracts. Involucre bracts are located at the flower head and surround the base of the petals. Arkansas Ironweed is smooth and hairless. It has leaves that are narrow and toothed.
Arkansas Ironweed Range
Ironweeds are found throughout the United States. The Arkansas Ironweed has an extensive distribution found in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and New York.
Interestingly, if different species of ironweed grow near one another, they will interbreed. Arkansas ironweed often hybridizes with western ironweed or prairie ironweed. This means some wild ironweed plants are a random combination of characteristics from each species.
Arkansas ironweed can spread through seeding in favorable conditions. Arkansas ironweed prefers soil that stays consistently moist. It can grow to its max height and width if the soil moisture is favorable. They prefer conditions with high light and moderate soil fertility. They are found in sunny habitats, such as gravel or sand bars, glades, prairies, open woods, rocky slopes, tickets, and meadows. If conditions are unfavorable for seed development, they will spread by rhizomes. They can form dense clumps and spread aggressively by rhizomes and aggressively by seed if soil conditions are favorable.
Arkansas ironweed is a great low-maintenance native to add to any pollinator garden. Arkansas ironweed blooms between July and October. Their blooms attract pollinator insects such as bees, butterflies, and skippers. Melissodes vernoniae, a long-horned bee, pollinates exclusively on ironweed species. Similarly, the aphid Aphis vernoniae exclusively feeds on the sap of Arkansas ironweed. Most importantly, Arkansas ironweed and other species in this genus are deer resistant and avoided by most herbivorous mammals due to their bitter taste.
In Bella Vista, ironweed species are found along the roads and on hillsides. Additionally, they can be found along stream banks and lakeshores. They bloom from late July to early August in Northwest Arkansas. Historically, ironwood tea made from leaves was used to relieve pain from childbirth and fever.
Scientific Name: Pelecanus erthrorhynchos
Common Name (s): American White Pelican
The white pelican is one of the world’s largest birds. They have a wingspan of up to nine feet and can grow up to 4 feet high and weight up to 30 pounds. They are distinguished from other birds by their long neck, large bill, and immense pouch. Their pouch can stretch up to six inches and hold three gallons of water. They also have large, webbed feet and short legs. They are all white except for the black feathers on their wing edges, which are visible when their wings are outstretched in flight. During mating season, the male’s bill becomes bright orange. Males also grow a triangular plate on their upper bill called a nuptial tubercle which falls off at the end of the mating season. Outside of mating season, there is no physical difference between males and females.
The American white pelican winters in the Gulf Coast, California, and Mexico. In the summer, they live in their nesting areas of the Great Plains and Great Basin. American white pelicans migrate north in groups from February through March and south from October through November. However, American white pelicans are seen in flocks throughout the year. Some populations reside on the Texas coast and Mexico year-round. The Audubon Society created an interactive map of tracked American white pelicans throughout the year at this link.
The American white pelican feeds in shallow water by dipping its pouch into the water and capturing fish. During the day, they use their eyesight to fish but at night use their sense of touch to find fish. During their breeding season, they are more likely to forage for fish at night. They also hunt as a group where they form a line and drive fish toward the shore, or form two lines and drive fish toward one another. They survive off rough fish and crayfish.
American white pelicans are adept fliers and swimmers but very clumsy on land. They live along the coast in salt marshes and along the shores of freshwater lakes and streams. During migration, they rest at lakes, reservoirs, and rivers.
American white pelicans’ mate and nest inland on isolated islands in waterways. They arrive at breeding grounds in March or April with nesting starting between April and June. They are colonial breeders with up to 5,000 pairs congregating per site. During the breeding season, males show off their bright orange bill and nuptial tubercle, strutting around, bowing, and taking short flights to attract females. They breed in the summer and make ground nests in depressions in the sand or with sticks, grass, and reeds. Females typically produce one to three eggs. If the female lays more than one egg, typically, only one offspring will survive by outcompeting the other for resources. Males and females incubate the egg(s) for thirty days using their webbed feet. Chicks are born without hair but grow a down covering in about 10 days. The parents feed and then regurgitate food into their pouches for chicks to consume. After three to four weeks, young pelicans leave the nest and live together as a pod. At 10 weeks of age, they develop wing feathers that are large enough to fly. After fledging, parents continue to care for the young for three more weeks. Young separate from parents in late summer or early fall. White pelicans become fully mature at three years of age and have a life span of 12 to 14 years.
There are eight pelican species in the Genus Pelecanus throughout the globe, but only a few fly through Arkansas. Specifically, the American White Pelican visits lakes in Bella Vista during the winter and has been spotted at Loch Lomond in January. In 2022 we rescued a lone American white pelican from Lake Avalon that had a broken leg. A local rescue took in the bird for rehabilitation.
Scientific Name: Sambucus Canadensis
Common Name(s): Elderberry, American Elderberry, Common Elderberry, Canada Elderberry
Figure 1: Photos of Elderberry shrub, bark, and leaves. Photos by Kayla Sayre, Bella Vista POA Fisheries & Water Quality Sr. Technician
Figure 1: Photo of Elderberry flower from the side to show the umbrella-like shape. Photos of the progression of Elderberry flower into berry. Photos by Kayla Sayre, Bella Vista POA Fisheries & Water Quality Sr. Technician. Mature Elderberry photo by ©H. Zell
Elderberry is a native shrub in the family Adoxaceae and genus Sambucus. Elderberry is a large shrub that can reach heights up to 20 feet and can span an area of 6 feet or more. It has many stems that arise from the base with a very soft pith (inside anatomy of stem). The bark is gray with light gray patches on older stems. The leaves have toothed margins and are pinnate (oblong with a pointed tip) in shape. Elderberry has compound or grouped leaves of 3-5 in an opposite arrangement in groups (Figure 1). It produces flower clusters in June and July. These fragrant small white flowers all originate from a single stem and branch into individual flowers. The small flowers form an umbrella shaped mass of white flowers called a corymb. The individual white flowers are radially symmetric (symmetry like a starfish) and are less than half an inch in diameter (5-6 mm) and have 5 small petals. The berries are first green with red stems and mature into blackish-purple berries in August to September. The berries are small, about one quarter inch in diameter (Figure 2).
Elderberry is native to most of North America except for Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah. It is also native to some parts of Canada.
The elderberry’s stems have a soft white pith that is easily hollowed out which is the source for the etymology of both the common and scientific name. The name elder is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “aeld,” which means to kindle or fire since they were used to blow on kindling from a distance. Similarly, the genus name is Sambucus which originates from the Greek “sambuce,” an ancient flute-like instrument since the stems can be fashioned into whistles.
Elderberry is a large deciduous shrub that produces suckers which are sprouts that originate from the roots. Elderberry is naturally found in edge habitats, meaning it is common on forest edges, streamside habitat, lakeside habitat, and pond habitat. Elderberry will does well in full sun to part shade with soil that is moist, fertile, and well drained. It will persist during dry periods once it has established its roots. Since elderberry produces suckers it can be used to protect habitat that is in danger of erosion such as lakesides, streambanks, or eroding hillsides.
All parts of the elderberry can be toxic in large quantities because they contain cyanogenic glycosides which are also present in apple seeds (e.g., cyanide). If the berries are boiled, they are safe to ingest. Today, people commonly use elderberries to make jams, syrup, pies, and crumbles. Elderberry berries are known to have high amounts of vitamin A and C, potassium, folate, calcium, and iron. The berries are made into tinctures and supplements and are readily available today and sold as immunity boosting supplements. Historically, elderberry was used by American indigenous peoples as far as 1200 to 1000 BCE. The Iroquois tribes would boil the inner bark and use it as a pain reliever for toothaches. The soft inner pith was used as a salve for cuts, abrasions, and burns. The flower was used in infused teas for fevers and colic babies.
Elderberry can easily be cultivated from stem cutting from live plants. These cuttings can be placed in water to promote root growth. Adding a rooting hormone can speed up this process. The first year of life is the most critical for care and watering, but once established it will do well without much support. The plant produces berries within the first three years, but it is recommended to clip the flowers to promote foliage and root growth if they arrive before the third year. When planted in a sunny location, elderberry can produce many berries. Elderberry is deer resistant. It attracts butterflies and other pollinators as well as songbirds.
Here in Bella Vista, elderberry can be found along lakes, streams, and forest margins. The white flowers can bloom around the same time as other white flowers that form umbrella shaped flower clusters. It will be significantly taller than other flowers, have a very pleasing floral scent, and woody stems that all originate from one spot. It will usually be found in stands. Other white flowers that bloom around the same time are poison hemlock and wild carrot, which are not shrubs so will not have woody stems. Hemlock and wild carrot also have leaves similar in appearance to parsley and will not have a pleasing smell. Poison hemlock specifically will have a purple stem and must be avoided. Elderberry tends to bloom later as well.
Scientific Name: Monarda punctata L. & Monarda fistulosa L.
Common Name(s): M. punctata – Spotted Bee Balm, Spotted Horsemint, Horsemint
M. fistulosa – Bee Balm, Wild Bergamot
Photos by Kayla Sayre, Bella Vista POA Fisheries & Water Quality Sr. Technician
Both spotted bee balm and wild bergamot are in the mint family (Lamiaceae) and share the same genus (Monarda). Species in the genus Monarda are characterized as herbaceous plants with slender, serrated, lanceolate leaves. Lanceolate leaves are shaped like the tip of a lance where they are long and wider in the middle with a tapering point. Similarly, these leaves are oppositely arranged around a square stem. Flowers in the genus Monarda have tubular flowers with bilateral symmetry where the plants are the same from left to right.
The morphology of the flowers distinguishes spotted bee balm from wild bergamot. Spotted bee balm has bracts associated with their layered flower heads. Bracts are specialized leaves that are associated with the flowerhead rather than the stem. The bracts on spotted bee balm are green when first emerging then turn to purple, pink, white or yellow, but most often are purple or pink in the wild. In between the bracts are yellow petals with spots that are maroon. In comparison, wild bergamot does not have bracts or layers, but instead has a ragged pom-pom shaped head that can be lavender, pink, or white, but most often is lavender in the wild. Wild bergamot is slightly taller, reaching heights between 2 and 5 feet while Spotted Bee Balm reached heights between 1 and 3 feet.
Spotted bee balm and wild bergamot share ranges in the South, excluding Florida, and the Northeast. In the Midwest, their ranges overlap in Colorado. In the West, their ranges overlap in New Mexico. Neither species is native to Nevada or California.
Spotted bee balm and wild bergamot can grow in a variety of conditions. They are both found in prairies, meadows, ditches, and plains. Spotted bee balm is also found in forest edges, dry woods, and marshes. Wild bergamot can do well in disturbed habitat, so can be seen along roadsides in Bella Vista. Spotted bee balm is a bit more tolerant to a variety of soil conditions doing well in clay, acidic, sand and loam soil that is well drained. Wild bergamot does well in dry and somewhat sandy soils. Both species can tolerate full sun, but spotted bee balm prefers conditions with part shade. Both do well in medium to low water conditions, so are ideal for hot dry summer weather. Once these species are established, they can thrive in most soil and water conditions.
Both spotted bee balm and wild bergamot are native plants that attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. In fact, both are of high nutritional value to adult monarch butterflies. Similarly, both are of special value for bumble bees which are declining. Spotted bee balm is also a species of value for honeybees. If you would like to attract butterflies to your yard and raise a resilient plant species, consider spotted bee balm and wild bergamot. Cultivation of both species is easy, and they spread rapidly once established. Wild bergamot is a deer resistant flower which is important in Bella Vista with its high deer population.
The leaves of both plants can be dried and steeped into a tea with wild bergamot having a minty taste and spotted bee balm having a taste closer to oregano or thyme. Historically, both species were used as medicinal herbs and are fragrant plants since they are in the mint family. Wild bergamot was crushed and used as a perfume, as well as to treat wounds, dental infections, and gastrointestinal problems by Native Americans. Similarly, spotted bee balm was used to treat upset stomachs, diarrhea, neuralgia, and kidney disease before modern medicine. Current research has been conducted on chemicals found in both plants. Wild bergamot contains carvacrol, an antioxidant which researchers found to have antimicrobial properties. Similarly, some research has shown carvacrol to suppress E. coli and Salmonella. Spotted bee balm contains thymed which has both antiseptic and antifungal properties.
In Bella Vista, wild bergamot is very common along roadsides and will bloom late June to early July. Spotted bee balm is common along forest edges and will bloom in the middle of July. In fact, we have a spotted bee balm plant near the Fisheries and Water Quality Lab. Both species make perfect garden plants which will attract butterflies and help declining monarch butterflies. Both species can be very resilient, so take care to allow them lots of room to grow into. They are also good species to plant around decks or back porches as they help repel mosquitoes.
Scientific Name: Daucus carota & Conium maculatum Common Name(s): Daucos carota – Wild Carrot, Queen Anne’s Lace, Birds Nest, Bishop’s Lace|Conium maculatum – Poison Hemlock, Wild Hemlock, Hemlock ©Jane Shelby Richardson ©AnRo0002 Identification: Both wild carrot and hemlock are in the family Apiaceae commonly known as the carrot family which is the 16th largest family […]