Photo by Corey Husic

Monday, April 25, 2011

Catching up on all the signs of spring - Part I

Between a very hectic schedule at work and then a week of traveling, I am way behind in writing about what folks have been reporting and what we have been observing.  I will start to catch up on that now.  Beginning last Wednesday, I was in East Lansing, MI where the weather was rather cold and dreary.  There, the red maples were only beginning to show flower buds and there were a few flower buds opening on the forsythia shrubs.  But overall, it looks rather gray and dormant there.  They had snow a few days before.  On Friday, I flew to Marquette, MI (where I grew up) and things were even further behind.  I awoke to 3 inches of fresh snow on Saturday morning!  The birds were what I would expect:  a variety of gulls around Lake Superior, crows and ravens, chickadees, house finches, and White-breasted nuthatches.  Spring is still a ways off there, although I noticed some yellow-green in the weeping willows.

Back on March 18th, when I took a walk along the Monocacy Creek in Bethlehem with my students, the willows already had emerging leaves.  While I was away this past week, the willows in the Kunkletown area really leafed out and have that characteristic spring yellow-green color.

Spring green in Kunkletown, PA on April 25th.  Notice the weeping willow and aspen.

The amount of change over the past week has been extraordinary.  I supposed I noticed it more because I was away, but also from the over 40 reports I received over Earth Week!  In the next series of posts, I will try to summarize what changes have been occurring.

On April 3rd , Judy from Center Valley (along Saucon Creek), reported that her spring ephemerals were first emerging – see post from April 3rd.  Ten days later (April 13th), she commented on how cool and wet the spring is and sent this description: 
"The floor of the woodlot-creek edge is now completely carpeted with trout lily leaves. The wild ginger, May apples, black cohash and foam flower are waking up. The spice bush is in full bloom, as are the Dutchman’s breeches, twinleaf and bloodroot. However, the double bloodroot is not quite ready to show-off."

Judy’s observations come from what was once a hedgerow that abutted farmland (now a suburban development). She has lots of spicebush, Redbud trees, Wild Ginger, Trout Lily and other native species on the property. The dominate tree species is Black Walnut. They have worked hard to control invasive plant species (Multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, Bush honeysuckle, etc.) and have planted some of the native species.  They have deer browse, ground hogs, rabbits and

“other critters share our site with us, so there is pressure on the plants to survive. Unfortunately, this morning I was finding trillium that have already had their buds munched.  When we first moved to this location, we did quite a few plantings that were lost to deer or were unhappy among the walnut trees. The years have made us wiser and humbler and we rejoice when something makes it to bloom and sigh "well maybe next year" when they get digested by the wildlife.”

Aren’t those comments ones that PA gardeners and wildflower lovers are all too familiar with!

Judy’s pictures from the 13th show that the spicebush was about in full bloom.  From the weekend before (April 10th) a student had sent me a picture of spicebush from along the Lehigh Canal that was just about to be in full bloom and on April 13th, in Point Phillip (Moore Township), the buds were obvious but not yet fully open.

North of the Kittatinny Ridge, the Dutchman’s breeches were in bloom by April 13th, but the Bloodroot didn’t open until April 16th  (single flower); most opened this past weekend (4/24).  On April 16th, we drove down to Bucks County on Rte. 611 along the Delaware River.  On the steep wooded slopes along the west side of the road, the forest flower was carpeted with Dutchman’s breeches plants in full bloom.  I don’t think I had ever seen so many of these.  Apparently, the deer can’t do too much damage on such steep banks.  Unfortunately, as we were driving, there were torrential downpours and we were on a narrow, winding road, so couldn't capture this on camera.

April 15th, Judy sent the following:
A follow-up to the sleepy trout lily sent earlier in the week. We are having a great year for blooms. Sometimes they blend so well into the leaf litter that your eyes must be vigilant and your feet well placed, so as not to crush them. The plants are native to the property and are colonized down the stream bank. From what I have read, trout lily is an indicator plant for undisturbed areas. Since the Saucon Creek suffers from heavy erosion, we are lucky to have this existing community still in place. I do not see any similar colonies on the opposite side of the creek, where erosion has cut three feet or more into the bank. Each year the cut is deeper and someday some of the existing plants may no longer survive.
Thanks for all the wonderful observations and photos Judy!

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