On Gardening: Tree frogs performing a symphony near you

June 8, 2015

Green tree frog looks to be safe and snuggled in the middle of a colorful Mother Duck daylily.

I saw the beautiful frog and muttered to myself "safe in the arms of mother duck." I then chuckled, thinking how that might sound, as ducks are known to eat frogs. In this case, however, all was well because this bright green tree frog was in Mother Duck, one of the most striking daylilies in our garden.

I love green tree frogs, but to be honest I love all frogs. I live less than a mile from Georgiaís coastal marsh, with canals all around, and that surely enhances the incredible nightly concerts. Sure the green tree frogs are doing their part, but so is every other species. Iíve recorded it with my phone just so I can show others what they are missing.

Iíve always felt a little slighted that the rainforest has the colorful poison dart frogs, but I have to admit I am most boastful about our handsome, bright green tree frog, Hyla cinerea. Do you proudly boast? Every time I mention them in garden groups, some people get squeamish. Iíve used the word "our" far too often, as if the Deep South had a monopoly on these frogs. But indeed they are native as far north as Maryland and Delaware; then, as far north as Minnesota, there is a relative called the gray tree frog, Hyla versicolor, that actually can change colors.

When it comes to green tree frogs, some are bright green and others are olive green with markings of white or yellow. Their legs are one and a half times the length of their bodies, giving them the ability to leap eight to 10 feet. Their feet are unique, with rounded, adhesive disks on unwebbed toes that enable the frogs to climb. I get a kick out of watching them cling to windows and doors by the front porch lights, waiting for a tasty dinner to fly by.

During the day, the green tree frog goes into protective mode, remaining still and hidden so not to be seen by predators or tortured by the family feline. You will find them nestled in the cup of a bromeliad, snuggled down in the leaf of a canna, hidden among the fronds of a Boston fern or in my case nestled snug in a daylily.

Their concert begins each evening after sunset. The males sing choruses, hoping to attract the young ladies. Sitting on the porch or patio listening to them sing and watching the passing fireflies also doing a mating ritual has to be one of the Southís finest moments. It is the stuff that makes childhood memories and provides the lore for books about the South.

After mating, the females propel their eggs backward into ponds or streams where the eggs adhere to floating vegetation. Within a couple of days, the eggs hatch into a larval stage known as tadpoles or as kids call them, pollywogs.

This phase lasts from four to six weeks; then individuals mature into tree frogs. It will be the next year, however, before they reach sexual maturity and bring us their song again. The sounds go silent in August as mating season ends and the frogs prepare to over-winter, but without a doubt, they do their part to make our landscapes more enjoyable at night.

No matter where you live this is the season to take your children out for the evening. Donít go to a fast food establishment, but go out in the backyard or to a park to look, but most of all to listen. The green tree frogs or one of countless others native to your area will do their part to make it a night to remember.



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