Nature Notes

My dog could spend hours in pursuit of frogs. One of my greatest pleasures during stay-at-home is watching her chase them in our local drainage pond. She’s never successful, which makes for a guilt-free spectator sport. Green frogs are her favorites, and over the past few weeks I’ve learned to differentiate their high-pitched alarm call from their territorial “plink.” 

Of the fifteen species of toads and frogs found at the Arboretum, I love bullfrogs the best. Nothing beats the serious heft of a golf ball-sized bullfrog tadpole. Adult frogs can weigh in at well over a pound and reach a length of up to eight inches. For me, the throbbing “baroom, baroom” of a male bullfrog signals spring as surely as the first daffodil. 

Bullfrogs and green frogs are common sights in the Arboretum’s wetlands, and visitors find them difficult to tell apart. Color is not a foolproof method: both species sport some green, and individual color variation compounds the confusion. I often explain that bullfrogs grow to the size of a dinner plate and green frogs to the size of a cake plate. Since many consider bullfrogs a delicacy, this culinary metaphor seems logical. 


The metamorphosis of bullfrog tadpoles can take several months in warm climates and up to three years in colder ones. In their tadpole stage, bullfrogs thrive on aquatic plants, algae, and insects. Adult bullfrogs will eat more or less anything that fits in their mouths. Hunting at night, these ambush predators have sticky tongues and powerful jaws for engulfing their next meal. 

Another quality that makes bullfrogs such great hunters is the musculature of their back legs. Expert lungers, bullfrogs can jump up to ten times their body length! I haven’t been able to find similar statistics on green frogs, but judging by my dog’s continued failure to catch one, I must assume they are similarly adept.

by Jenny Houghton
Assistant Director

Photo by Kellen McCluskey

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