Monday, February 06, 2006

False Spring

Last Thursday was Groundhog Day, and the famous prognosticators in Canada (foremost among them, perhaps, Wiarton Willie) did not see their shadows, hence an early spring. (This was not the case south of the border, as Troutgrrrl reports). When the groundhog see its shadow: six more weeks of winter. Now it took me many years to get it through my head that "six more weeks..." was not the forecast of an early spring. After all, winter ending in the middle of March sounded pretty good to me.

This year Groundhog Day fell in the midst of alarmingly warm weather. Saturday I went out to see what the trees and plants were thinking about the advent of spring. Many thought it was here.

Swelling leaf bud on a Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) Prickly ash, (Xanthoxylum americanum)

Species Poplar: budding catkin

Poplars flower early, but this is too early. Winter returned this week. Thomasburg fell in a narrow band between winter storms. We had some wind, some snow, but nothing like regions of Ontario to the west, north, and some parts east. Temperatures have fallen into more normal ranges, and are forecast to stay down all week. So what happens to the trees that jump the gun. Probably nothing terrible--but it does put them closer to the edge to spend the extra energy on budding twice. These particular trees don't normally suffer from the spring frosts we often get after the trees break dormancy in more average years, but a couple of hard frosts in the spring--or, as is also possible, a couple more false springs, would put them at risk.

Species moss

Moss is incredible stuff. Not only does it grow on rocks, but this growth in a warm spell is nothing for moss. Most summers we have some very dry periods during which all the moss in exposed areas dries right out. One day of rain and it greens up again, often flowering almost before my eyes.

So no worries about the moss. And the snow cover on the perrennial beds has persisted since the real snow of December. (I got out on snowshoes three times--more than last year (which was cold, but there was very little snow) but not nearly enough!) But a lot of things are going to be affected, one way or another, by this very weird winter.


John B. said...

On Sunday morning I was over at the Arboretum, and I saw a lot of trees blooming in the wake of last week's high temperatures. (I may get some pictures up later this week.) I concur that a lot of things are going to be affected by the unusually high temperatures this winter. In particular the cherry trees may well peak before the the Cherry Blossom Festival this year.

Anonymous said...

this has been a strange winter, last month we had more rain than snow. While cleaning up leaf litter under thistle feeders last week I found quite a few perennial shoots were already coming up, so after tossing out the dirty leaves, I replaced new leaves over the plants. The warm weather is definitely a factor in this huge salmonellosis outbreak, the worst I've ever seen in all my years in Michigan. I'm actually glad it's cold again and I hope we get some real snow soon. A couple inches here and there is going to cause our water tables to drop again and snow is a good insulator for plants and other critters.