Mary Lou Steward demonstrates her love of nature by placing feeders in her yard for squirrels and birds that regularly visit her Douglas Drive home in Wauseon.
Steward also plants a small flower bed each year by her front porch. This year, thanks to what appears to have been a resourceful squirrel, the bed also hosts an unusual surprise.
What initially looked like an unwelcome weed among the colorful splash of stella lilies is now a towering corn stalk sporting about a half-dozen ears of the crop. Standing at least seven feet high, the incongruous addition to the decorative yard may at first have puzzled 82-year-old Steward, but now she regards the novelty with pride and more than a little humor.
“I couldn’t believe it. We’ve never had that happen,” she said. “Now it’s right in the midst of the stella lilies. But it is a very, very healthy stalk of corn. I bet it could rival any stalk of corn in Fulton County, although I haven’t been around Fulton County to know that.”
Her son, Michael Yoder, who long ago purchased the home on Douglas Drive from his parents, and now shares it with his mother, at first didn’t know what kind of plant it was. Then he couldn’t believe his eyes.
“It has attracted a bit of attention,” he said.
The only explanation he has for the anomaly is a hungry squirrel that probably swiped a kernel of corn from a feeder in the yard, buried it among the stella lilies for a future meal, then forgot where its treasure lay.
“I didn’t know what it was,” Yoder said. “Then, as it matured, it looked like corn. We just let it go to see what would happen.”
What “happened” became a tassled stalk of corn taller than Yoder’s six-foot frame that now distinguishes the house from others on the street, and elicits double-takes from passersby, a few of whom have stopped to gawk.
He said when he first pointed out to his mother that the plant resembled corn, “she said, ‘Oh, it won’t come to anything. Just let it grow.’ It’s probably as big as any stalk of corn in Fulton County.”
What Yoder finds equally surprising is that the corn stalk is doing so well without the typical benefit of fertilizer it would receive on a farm. He said it’s surviving merely on the water used to feed the flowers surrounding it.
Steward said she considered hoeing out the flowers from the bed to give the corn stalk a better chance of surviving but they’re stubbornly holding their own. “They’re alive but they’re not blooming,” she said.
Her son said they plan to let the saga of the wayward corn stalk play out. He said they’ll let it grow to maturity, feast off the ears if that’s possible, then let the stalk wither and stand as a fall decoration. “If I keep feeding the squirrels I suppose they’ll hide another kernel of corn (next year),” he said.
According to Steward, they’ll continue to provide feeder food for birds and squirrels that flock to their yard each summer. And she does wonder if another staple crop will pop up next year.
“Maybe a squirrel will try again,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.