Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Baby-steps Toward Spring

At last, the snow has retreated somewhat in the Skidmore woods. There were acres and acres of woods today where I could kick dry leaves underfoot as I walked. I went there today to see if perhaps the first tightly pleated green spears of False Hellebore might have pierced through the brown leaf cover around the muddy edges of vernal pools. Alas, they were not to be found. Yet. And those vernal pools were silent and still, not a peep nor a wriggle nor croak could be detected around their dark waters. The amphibians have yet to hear their wake-up calls.

This is my third year of keeping this blog, so I can look back over two previous springs to compare the season's progress. Last year, the weather was exceptionally warm and dry after a winter of little snow, so all the flowers bloomed about two weeks earlier than normal. The year before that was more typical, with Hepatica fully in bloom by the end of the first week of April. This year, the weather continues cold, well below freezing most nights and barely into the 40s during the days. Much of the woods is still covered in icy deep snow. But I see that this little clump of Hepatica is getting as eager as I am for spring, peeking its pink petals out from its furry sepals.

Oops! I forgot my Hepatica anatomy here. Hepaticas actually have no petals. The colored parts of the flowers are sepals. Each blossom contains from six to twenty sepals surrounded by three bracts.

Last year on this date, the ice was completely gone from Mud Pond in Moreau Lake State Park. Two years ago, the ice was gone by the end of March and by then was roiling around the edges with insect and amphibian life (click here to see it). Today, the ice is starting to recede, but the water stayed absolutely still as I walked the pond's edge -- which surprised me a little, since my friend Sue and I spotted newts in Moreau Lake on Sunday.

Many American Hazelnut shrubs line the sandy paths near Mud Pond, and today I could see a few were dangling male catkins, ready to shed their pollen. A careful inspection of several bushes yielded just one female flower now in bloom. Although, as this photo shows, this flower would be easy to miss, even if hundreds were blooming.


Ellen Rathbone said...

The hepatica is so sweet! Wonderful photo!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Ellen.