Out the Back Window | Knots & Thorns

by Melanie and Jim

We decided to take a different path for our walk. Normally, we just go out the front or back door and take one of seven or eight possible routes for our walk. This time, we drove two miles for new scenery. This was one of the last times to see the colors and leaves this beautiful. Rain is forecast and will bring down the leaves faster. This new location proved to be a gorgeous setting with tall stately trees and brown, yellow, and orange colors. Near the end of our walk, we got very excited about some large animal tracks in the mud and sand. Feel free to add your own observations about what is going on in your backyard.

The large dark brown honey locust seed pods were scattered on the ground in many areas. The honey locust is related to the pea plant. The honey locust has a defensive shield of 4-6″ long thorns along the trunk. It is one of the seven trees you will probably never climb.

A number of these were in a sunny patch. I believe it is called Datura. Sometimes it is called Angel’s Trumpets and Jimsonweed. These seed pods are quite well protected. Thanks to fellow blogger The Novice Gardener for helping ID this thing. I thought it might be a Castor Bean. Here is a quote about toxicity. Don’t eat them.

All Datura plants contain tropane alkaloids such as scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine, primarily in their seeds and flowers. Because of the presence of these substances, Datura has been used for centuries in some cultures as a poison and as a hallucinogen.

Many of these rose hips were on the ends of the branches in a patch of wild roses.

Trees in this woods are twisted and bent. Here are some common examples.

No walk would be complete without some regurgitated rodents. There were several different ones in this collection of pellets.


Near the end of our walk, we crossed a bridge over this stream. It goes by the name of Clear Creek. During the heavy rains of spring and early summer, this turns into a deep and flooding river which is anything but clear.


Investigating the sand and mud along the banks, we found several large animal tracks along with those of raccoon, possum, and birds. Reports in recent years include sightings and the shooting of mountain lion only a few miles from here in Iowa. Our interest was peaked when we saw these. Are you any good at animal identification using their tracks? We went home and studied to find out what could make these. See if you can ID it. Offer your thoughts in the comments section.


6 thoughts on “Out the Back Window | Knots & Thorns

  1. The Novice Gardener

    Mountain lion tracks, regurgitated rodents, six inch thorns, YIKES!! Other than that, it must have been a lovely walk. I love the first two pictures, with the trees canopying above your heads and the leaves changing colors.

    Btw, I don’t think it’s castor oil plant. It’s datura. Where’s the Belmont Rooster when we need him? I’m pretty sure, though. I have some growing in my backyard. The flowers are pretty.

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      I’m glad you liked those parts of the walk.

      You are right about that plant. I will go edit the post. It is almost as bad, or worse, than castor beans. Thanks for the correction.

  2. Thread crazy

    Looks like you had a lovely fall day for a beautiful walk; yep, I’d say you have a predator on the loose! Maybe mountain lion; here we see bobcats! Oh, how I love the changing of the leaves…enjoy.

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      We decided it was a canine track. They leave claw marks. The shape of the heel pad is canine, too. Cat claws retract so far they don’t leave marks like that. We were quite disappointed.

      I hope to see a bobcat someday. They are around.

  3. shoreacres

    Interesting that you have a Clear Creek, too. It’s Clear Creek that feeds Clear Lake – which I just can see from my windows. After passing into the lake, it flows on into Galveston Bay, separating the towns of Seabrook and Kemah. There used to be a ferry there, then a swing bridge, then a draw bridge, and now a lovely concrete arch that allows sailboats with 60′ masts to pass beneath.

    I think you’re right that those are dog tracks. Somewhere I might have a photo I took of a cougar prints down by the Gulf. (Here we use cougar and bobcat interchangeably, or at least different people call the same animal by two names.) If I can find the photo I’ll send it along, since I showed it to a neighbor who’s a Parks and Wildlife guy and he didn’t even blink.

    It’s hard to believe the leaves are falling already. Still, when I brought Mom up to Newton for burial two years ago, that was the week of October 11. It was gorgeous on the day itself, but the very next day the wind and rain came, and that was the end of it.

    I’m hoping to see some color on my trip to see my aunt this month, but I guess I’ll have to hope for some farther south. I’m going up through the mountains in NW Arkansas so I can stop by the Crystal Bridges Museum – that’s probably my best chance.

    1. Jim in IA Post author

      Bobcats and cougar (or mtn lion) aren’t the same here. A hunter shot a cougar about 3 yrs ago along the isolated area by the Iowa River NW of us about 20 miles. It was 125 lbs. I wish he had left it alone.

      I didn’t know the Museum existed. Interesting.


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