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Port Washington Garden Club


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This month in the garden...

 

"The best way to make sure you're removing a weed and not a valuable plant? If it comes out of the ground easily it's a valuable plant."

Anonymous

 

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This Month in the Garden (July 2009)...

Common across most of the continental United States and Canada, Bufo americanus, the American toad, should be a welcome sight in summer gardens.  Each one of these solitary amphibians can consume up to a thousand snails, slugs and beetles each day.

In spring, male toads gather in ponds and slow moving streams, establishing territories and singing to attract mates.  The females lay between 4,000 and 8,000 eggs in shallow water in two strings of jelly.  Tiny, almost black tadpoles emerge from the eggs in three to twelve days, depending on the water temperature.

The tiny tadpoles school in shallow water for protection, hiding in aquatic vegetation while feeding on algae.  Like adult toads the tadpoles have toxins in their skin to discourage predators.  In about 20 days legs begin to grow at the base of the tadpoles’ tails.  In another two weeks or so front legs appear in place of their gill slits and the tadpoles begin to breathe air.  Three days later, when their tails have disappeared, the transformed tadpoles leave the water.

When the tiny toads emerge from their ponds they have the brown color and warty skin of their parents.   They’ll live the rest of their lives on land, only returning to the water to breed.  The toads shed their skins several times over the summer as their bodies grow.  If they survive until autumn, they dig into soft soil or sand and hibernate until spring.

Glands in the skin of the American toad produce a toxic fluid that makes them unattractive to most predators.  When annoyed, toads will also urinate to make themselves more unpalatable.  Several snakes, including the common garter snake, are immune to the toxin, however, and include toads in their diet.

If you’re lucky enough to have an ornamental pond or live near the water you may hear the toads’ sweet song on warm spring evenings.  If you can spot them, tiny toads like this one can be found in gardens in July.  They’re perfectly camouflaged to blend into the garden soil and are only about 3/4” long.


This Month in the Garden Archive:

November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July
2010
June 2010
May
2010

April 2010
March 2010
February 2010

January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April
2009

March 2009

 

Port Washington Garden Club, PO Box 492, Port Washington, Wisconsin 53074
Registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization