THE MYSTERY OF THE SPIKES
Odd-looking wooden spikes began showing up on our sidewalk. The mystery was soon solved.
The spikes are white and at the tips of twigs. They come to a point, although it is often broken off. Thin elongated scars line the sides of the spikes. At first I thought an animal had chewed these.
A couple days later, I found these: the spikes must be the center of a flower. Looking up, I knew immediately which one: the Tulip Tree or Yellow-poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera).
In April, Tulip trees make these beautiful flowers, which are almost as big as a tennis ball. Most stay high in the tree, so they can be hard to see, unless one falls. Squirrels also chew them off at the base. I’ve not seen them come back down to retrieve them, so I’m not sure why they do this.
Looking inside, you can see the stout yellow cluster of pistils surrounded by the numerous yellow stamens. The spikes must be the core of these pistil clusters. The spikes on the ground are so weathered and their surrounding petals so dry that I think they must be from the previous year.