Heronswood Biodiversity Audit

Posted · Add Comment



For gardeners in the Pacific Northwest, spring holds much promise of potential. All the toils from the season prior are now eagerly anticipated as daylight arrives earlier and brings with it warmer temperatures. Eyes are fixated upon the ground as spring ephemerals poke through mulch and duff to reach out and color the garden. But while one’s sense of vision is focused on these charming flowers, another sense is also engaged by a curious call. In the distance, somewhere that may even seem like it’s just around the corner, a “cree-eek” echoes amongst the trees and shrubs. Spending any time to locate this sound often proves futile as once you’ve narrowed the general area, from a distance of ten feet or less, the sound has likely ceased. Fear not, for it is from an omnipresent inhabitant of our region, the Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla).

If to gardeners flowers are the imagery most associated with spring, then from a Pacific tree frog’s perspective this season is for singing. Their vocal range and repertoire expands beyond just the “cree-eek” which can be often heard by a lone frog nearly any time of year, to the aural intensity of an orchestra of amphibians now combining trills and croaks. Anywhere pools of standing freshwater or slow-moving rivulets exist, these creatures may be heard. The Pacific tree frog lives within the entirety of the Pacific Northwest, stretching its range from northern California up to British Columbia, and even into the interior to Montana and northwest Nevada. Mature frogs can be up two inches in length and come in a number of color morphs, ranging from green to brown and shades in between, to even rarely a morph in blue. A characteristic dark brown stripe runs along both sides of the body, beginning ahead of the nostrils, stretching across the eyes to then drop down behind their shoulders, and infrequently may extend along the belly. Specialized cells within their skin allow them some flexibility to blend in within their surroundings, and I had the pleasure of once discovering no less than a half-dozen young frogs resting among a single square foot area of Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow’ in late July. A few were even shimmering in shades of gold!

The presence of these frogs acts as a bellwether of a healthy garden in the Pacific Northwest, serving both as a companion for pest control and as a meal for other animals like garter snakes, herons, and small mammals. Providing varying degrees of layered foliage, secluded perches, and myriad flowers for insect prey will assuredly attract these charming frogs to a garden bed where they can remain hidden to surprise passersby with their calls.

Matt Jevnikar
Heronswood Horticulturist

(Click above to hear our friends)