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"Tree Frogs – Yet another Sign of Spring," by the Whistling Gardener

Pacific Tree Frog. Photo credit: Pexels.com.
Pacific Tree Frog. Photo credit: Pexels.com.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

After having so much fun last week talking about Robins, I thought, let’s explore tree frogs. After all, what could go wrong? Turns out there are a lot of interesting facts about these amphibians.

This time of year as the night temps reach up into the mid 40’s and lower 50’s, one can start to hear a cacophony of sounds coming from the local watering hole (or puddle for that matter). I noticed this the other morning at 5am on my way to the YMCA.

The familiar sounds (which by the way Hollywood has immortalized) were coming from our native Pacific Tree Frog, also more properly referred to as a Chorus Frog.

In the evenings and early mornings during these early months of spring, the male chorus frog makes his way down to a wet area, like a pond, and starts his mating call to attract a suitable mate. Turns out this call also attracts all the other male chorus frogs as well and it isn’t long before there is a whole army (yes, this is the proper name for a bunch of frogs) belting out their love songs, in hopes of an evening tryst with some lovely lady frog.

Turns out the larger frogs are preferred by the ladies, presumably due to their more resonate sounding croaks, but in the end I suspect even the little guys find love.

Once the marriage vows have been recited, instead of the male carrying his bride over the threshold, he instead climbs onto her back (a position called “amplexus”) and she carries him into the pond where she deposits her eggs on some aquatic vegetation and he releases his sperm onto the egg mass (if that isn’t safe sex I don’t know what is). One female can lay up to 1,250 eggs in a year, presumably not with the same male because of course we all know men clearly do not have that kind of stamina.

Let’s see. Where was I? Oh yes, eggs are laid under the water, they hatch in a couple of weeks and become tadpoles with gills and fins and after several more weeks emerge from the water with lungs and legs.

During that time they are preyed upon by mammals, birds, insects, and snakes, to name just a few. Obviously, enough of them survive to keep the race going.

Chorus frogs can be recognized by the cute mask that runs beneath their eyes much like a raccoon. They are usually green or brown but they can change their colors quickly, a process that is related to temperature and moisture in the air rather than background like reptiles.

The Pacific Chorus Frog has a range all the way from Canada down to Mexico and from sea level to 11,000 feet. They can even be found on the east side of the mountains. They keep their skin moist by secreting a waxy coating, which helps them survive during dry periods. Toe pads on their front and hind toes enable them to climb in search of insects.

They can be found in our gardens under rocks or leaves, but also up in our shrubs and trees. If you are lucky enough to find one please respect it by not applying pesticides and keeping some moisture around.

Whether you’re in a manmade or natural environment, getting the full experience includes embracing all the different kinds of plants and creatures that come with it. Along with being beneficial creatures, these tree frogs are part of that experience and are a gardener’s friend. So cheers to you tree frogs for enhancing our gardening experiences. And remember, once this mating season is over the noise will settle down just like those darn robins.

Sunnyside will be offering “Spring Lawn Care” next weekend, a free class offered at two times - Saturday, March 24, 2018, at 10:00 am and Sunday, March 25th, at 11:00 am.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

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