Sand Hill Plum, frogs

(Frank Chaffin) Today on Around Kansas we bring you three examples of our state’s natural world, starting with the Sand Hill Plum, the most common wild plum in western Kansas. Next check out the different frogs that entertain us in the spring and summer with their vocalizing. Then enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with a look at the meadowlark, our official state bird. Stay with us!Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at

(Frank Chaffin) Good morning, I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. Thanks for joining us this early morning. (Deb) This weekend, a lot coming up. It’s Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday, remind my kids. (Frank) Happy Mother’s Day. (Deb) Yes, thank you, Frank. (Frank) I’ll bring you your Mother’s Day basket. (Deb) Oh, God. Make sure you, bottle of wine and a Mother’s Day basket – (Frank) Hey, there you go. (Deb) – that’s the perfect gift, that’s the perfect gift. This Saturday night, we’re going to be in Wichita for the Home on the Range screening that is going to happen at the Orpheum. They already had a screening at the Orpheum back in the winter, but there was an ice storm. Still, with an ice storm, they had a standing-room-only crowd. But this one is really special because all the folks who star in the film are going to be there, including Michael Martin Murphy and Buck Taylor and Darby Hinton. Do you remember Darby Hinton? (Frank) Yes. (Deb) From the Daniel Boone show? I can’t wait to interview him. Michael’s going down and we’re going to do some interviews and share those with you later on. Won’t that be fun? (Frank) It will. Have fun. (Deb) It’s going to be a great time. The film is doing so well and its just screening all over the country later on. We’ll be on TV at some point and we’ll share all that with you but kudos. Good, good job. (Frank) Good. (Deb) Good job. (Frank) We’re already on TV though. (Deb) What are – we are already on TV. [Laugh] (Deb) That’s right. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) They’re cool or what. (Frank) We have some really good stories today, too. Today is nature day. (Deb) When we were out plundering with Von Rothenberger, talked about that last week. He was pointing out – we had a ball that day. He was pointing out all the rock formations and we picked up opals. Did you know that we had raw opals in Kansas, Frank? (Frank) Real, honest-to-goodness, opals? (Deb) Yes. (Frank) No, I had no idea. (Deb) Yes. Who knew? We picked these up and there’s just a vein of opals there in Osborne County. Maybe they’re all over the state, I don’t know. My friend Brad Davenport, he’s a rock guy and Beth Myers, they may know a little bit more about this stuff. You can see it looks like a clump of concrete almost, but then when it’s broken into, you can see some of them are gray opal, some of them are like opalescent. What we can – would recognize as that white, pearly iridescent look. It was wild. (Frank) I had no idea. (Deb) I had no idea, I had no idea. But just what’s beneath your feet, I mean the world around you, get out and explore. But find someone that knows stuff like Von to go with you so you’re not just stumbling over these rocks and birds and stuff, and not know what you’re looking at. [Laugh] But yes, that was really cool. Opals. (Frank) Opals. (Deb) I don’t know. Yes. I’m going to see if Brad will polish up some up for me too. (Frank) Yes, that’d be cool. (Deb) I know. (Frank) We’ll be back.

(Frank) We’re back again. (Deb) When we were out exploring, there was such a sweet smell in the air. It’s just wonderful. Of course, everything’s blooming which is part of the reason why my voice is gone because of allergies, say everything is blooming. The Sand Hill Plums are the wild plums, were blooming and it was just beautiful and the smell is so sweet. But just these white, blossomed bushes, just all over the place, and the ravines and little thickets, and that is one fruit, and they’re not many, that are native to Kansas. One of the things when I used to do a lot of educational programming, Frank, when white settlers came to Kansas, one of the things that they missed most are apples, because obviously there are not any apple orchards here. Most people back East had had at least an apple tree in the yard. Most homes back then had an apple tree or two or three in the yard or had access to them. We take an apple so for granted today but they would have basically sold their soul to the devil to get an apple. You had Missourians coming over selling apples because they have been established a lot longer, they had orchards and stuff. They would come over and spy selling apples and people knew they were spying but they didn’t care because they wanted an apple so badly. (Frank) You know there really was a Johnny Appleseed. (Deb) I have been to his grave. (Frank) He really did give out seeds and trees and all that. Now, we’re going to talk about plums, and this is kind of a bugaboo with me. Okay, you have plums and they’re nice and juicy. But if you dry them out – (Deb) You get prunes. (Frank) – you get prunes. [Laugh] (Frank) Why are they not dried plums, you call them prunes? I’d want to know that. (Deb) Why you never had one? You would know why if you never had one, you would know why they call it a prune. (Frank) Well, I’ve had prunes, but the thing is – and especially because they’re advertising them again on television and it’s like they’re dried plums but you call them prunes. (Deb) But you call dried grapes raisins. (Frank) That’s true. Never mind. (Deb) Yes, never mind, Frank. [Laugh] (Deb) Sand Hill Plums, not be confused with Sand Hill Prunes. (Frank) I’m done. (Deb) Yes, you’re really done. The Sand Hill plum or Chickasaw plum is native to the Sunflower State and is the most common wild plum in western Kansas. It is found naturally on sandy prairies where it is very effective in stopping blowing sand. Sand hill plum is similar to American plum, both form thickets from root suckers. The Sand hill plum reaches 3 to 4 feet high with a spread of 4 to 6 feet. Flowers are white and form in early April before leaves appear. Fruits are bright red or orange with a whitish film and three-quarters to one inch long. They mature in late June or July and persist to mid-August. Sand hill plum is a popular plant for use in developing wildlife habitat on sandy soils. The thorny thicket is valuable for songbird and game bird nesting, loafing and roosting. Various other animals also use it for loafing, bedding and escape cover. The fruit is consumed by numerous birds and other animals. This plant may be used as the outside row of a windbreak for ground level wind protection. White flowers are attractive and fragrant in the spring. Some people find its thicket forming habit objectionable in windbreaks. Sand hill plum is very effective in stabilizing blowing soil. It is also used to stabilize stream banks and gullies. Besides all these uses, the fruit makes some fine wine, jam, and jelly!

(Frank) Here we are again. This is Around Kansas by the way, early in your morning on Wednesday. I’m Frank, she’s Deb. (Deb) Yes. (Frank) She still is. [Laughter] (Deb) The frog story – I’ve got a frog in my throat this morning. I’m going to tell you a frog story. My friend Ed Kennedy, he’s retired from the Command and General Staff College. We were out doing a staff ride, which is way cool. Tom Trichord, Ed Kennedy, myself, we have 20 visiting French officers. We’re at Byram’s Ford in Kansas City doing the Battle of the blue, and this is so cool, so much fun. It’s early April and it’s the first nice day, warm day in a long time. We’re standing down at Byram’s Ford along the creek there in Swope Park, near Swope Park. And Ed all of a sudden he’s lecturing to these French guys and he said, “Oh, I think I hear a frog,” and all the French guys are like, “Really? Yes, really?” and of course – [Laugh] (Frank) Yes. (Deb) – the frog is a rather derogatory term for a French man. Ed was just hearing a tree frog for the first time in the spring. It took him a couple of minutes for it to sink in, that he had just insulted 20 French officers. This is how international incidents happen, people. This is how it happens. I was out in western Kansas last year; it was my first spring out there. I’m out one night in, with their friends and I said, “Oh, I hear tree frogs.” “We don’t have tree frogs. We don’t have trees, how come we have tree frogs?” But Frank apparently, we do have tree frogs, don’t we? (Frank) I would – yes, yes. The story I get to do now is about frogs and I learned a lot and hopefully, you will learn a lot about frogs, more than you ever wanted to know. That was probably- [Laughter] (Frank) – and toads. Did you ever – you grew up in hills so I’m sure there were toads. But do you just to go out and chase toads all around, of course, like, “Oh, don’t pick that thing up. You’ll get warts.” (Deb) Yes. (Frank) Don’t believe it. (Deb) Don’t. (Frank) Anyway, here’s a story about frogs. [Laughter] A sure sign of spring is not only the song of the birds but also the cacophony of frogs! For a tutorial on frog sounds we turn to the Kansas School Naturalist, published by Emporia State and edited by Robert F. Clarke. One of the times that we are aware of the presence of frogs and toads is when they are vocalizing. Sometimes these sounds are referred to as “songs,” but many hardly rate that title, for they are merely grunts, or chirps, or screams. The term “calls” is also applied – and is better for it implies that the individual making the sound is calling to another individual and this is the case most of the time. Only males call, gathering other males and females together into a breeding congress when conditions are appropriate. Often, large numbers of individuals are calling at the same time from the same general area, and the result of this “chorus” can be a terrific din, particularly in southern swamps when a number of different species are at the same breeding site. Whereas most vocalizations are made to attract mates, calls may be stimulated by changes in humidity, declaration of territory, fright screams, or sometimes apparently “just because they feel like it.” The sound is made by air shuttled back and forth over vocal cords between the mouth cavity and lungs. Lowering and raising the floor of the mouth cavity with the mouth and nostrils closed accomplishes this. In most cases, the sound is amplified by a resonating chamber known as the vocal sac. There may be a single external sac, which swells under the chin, and is sometimes quite prominent, as in Bufo toads; or a single internal sac, as in the Bullfrog; or a double internal sac, as in the Leopard Frog. Calls of the various species are different from one another and it is easy to learn to recognize the identity of the caller. One that should be familiar to most is the “jug 0′ rum” call of the Bullfrog, heard in late spring and summer. When the mid-March rains fill ditches, the Chorus Frog begins; its sound is a series of notes ascending the scale, somewhat like the sound you get by running a fingernail along the points of the teeth of a comb. At this same time that Chorus Frogs are calling, the Leopard Frogs also begin; the call is not very loud, and is said to resemble the low clucking of a hen or fingers dragged across a blown-up balloon. Cricket Frogs get their common name from the cricket-like “chik-chik-chik” sound they produce almost constantly along the edge of creeks, ponds, and lakes. Spring Peepers have a single, high-pitched “peep;” Tree Frogs, a short, loud trill; Green Frogs sound like the plucking of 7 of the low string of a banjo; Woodhouse’s Toad has a startling scream; the Narrow-mouth Toad sounds like a muffled door buzzer; and the American Toad has a beautiful, high-pitched trill that may last for 30 seconds. Although most of the mating call choruses are conducted at night, a considerable amount is heard during the daytime at the height of the season, especially after rains. Other types of calls may be heard at any time. To learn more, check out the Kansas School Naturalist, which is free to those interested in nature education.

(Ron) When I travel far outside of Kansas and I tell people I’m from the state of Kansas I get one of three reactions. Number one, they say Oh, Kansas City? Number two, they say Oh I drove THROUGH there one time. Or number three, they’ll make a Wizard of Oz joke. And I think Kansans sometimes get tired of hearing about the Wizard of Oz, but maybe it’s the thing we’re known for best. This poem is entitled “The Yellow Brick Road.” In the history of Hollywood one show which gives me pause is the infamous movie known as “The Wizard of Oz.” It’s about Dorothy from Kansas and how the tornado made her go off to the Land of Oz somewhere over the rainbow. She met some little munchkins and traversed the yellow bricks to a wizard and wicked witch who do a lot of tricks. Dorothy had this adventure with her little dog Toto and joined the Cowardly Lion, Tinman and of course the Scarecrow. This classic movie that’s become known worldwide about this Kansas girl who took this wondrous ride. But I think many Kansans think this story’s not so great because Dorothy is all some people know about our state. So we’ve learned that smiling patiently is the best thing we can do when some East Coaster cracks a joke about Dorothy and Toto too. But we also remind them that wherever Dorothy would roam, her entire goal was to get to Kansas because
There’s No Place Like Home! Happy Trails.

(Frank) Here we are again in our Nature Day. (Deb) We are educational programming. We had Evie Green last week who used to be part of the outdoor education, environmental stuff in Topeka, which was a wonderful program. They got school funding so they got that wonderful program. If you read that story that she did in Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul, you’ll hear a very heartwarming story of how important that program is, that we don’t have anymore. We’re trying to fill the void, people. Here we are at Around Kansas trying to give you, especially you city folks who don’t get out much, we’re giving you all the nature education you can stand today. (Frank) Yes. I’ve got to tell the next song’s about birds. Anyway– its things that remind me of songs because songs have just been a part of my life, all my life. My grandmother’s most favorite song was Mockingbird Hill by Les Paul and Mary Ford. When we would come to visit she had a record player and she would always play Mockingbird Hill. (Deb) Yes, I remember that song. (Frank) When you tune into WREN radio,, occasionally you will hear me play that song, Mockingbird Hill. Now, that has nothing to do with the next story, which is about meadowlarks. (Deb) Meadowlarks have a really, pretty song. (Frank) Yes, they do. (Deb) Apparently, a large repertoire of songs. Who knew birds had repertoire? Who knew they played more than one song? Did you know that, before this? (Frank) Yes. Well, I thought black birds just quacked. (Deb) Right. (Frank) But the other day, I looked up in the tree and there were some black birds because I had heard the song. I looked up it was black birds and I thought, “Really?” I had always heard him squawk but one was actually singing. I can’t imitate it but it really was surprising. (Deb) See when you pay attention to nature the things you learn? (Frank) Yes. (Deb) When you pay attention to Around Kansas? We should get merit badges. The western meadowlark was designated the official state bird of Kansas in 1937. A familiar songbird of open country across the western two-thirds of the continent, the meadowlark is in the same family as blackbirds and orioles. Adults have a black and white striped head; long, pointed bill; yellow cheeks; bright yellow throat and a distinctive black “V” on the breast. The western meadowlark is often seen perched on fence-posts in grasslands and agricultural areas singing its distinct 7-10 note melody. Their flute-like song usually ends with 3 descending notes. Male Western Meadowlarks have a complex, two-phrase “primary” song that begins with 1–6 pure whistles and descends to a series of 1–5 gurgling warbles. Males develop a repertoire of up to a dozen songs, and may switch the songs they sing in response to an intruder. When chasing competing males or responsive females, male Western Meadowlarks give a hurried, excited “flight song” of short-spaced whistles and warbles. Although Western Meadowlarks seldom sing more than 10–12 songs, their eastern counterparts exhibit a much larger repertoire of 50–100 song variations. Western meadowlarks forage on the ground and beneath soil for insects, grain and weed seeds (it’s estimated that at least 65-70% of their diet consists of beetles, cutworms, caterpillars, grasshoppers, spiders, sow bugs and snails. They also nest on the ground, constructing a cup of dried grasses and bark woven into the surrounding vegetation. This nest may be open or have a partial or full grass roof, or even a grass entry tunnel several feet long. Western meadowlark predators include hawks, crows, skunks, coyotes, raccoons, and weasels. Western meadowlarks are still abundant but declining throughout their range; they are a protected non-game species.

(Frank) Well, we got to go. Again, I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) We’ll see you somewhere – (Frank and Deb) – Around Kansas.

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