Thursday, April 2, 2015

Is it really spring?

Since the equinox two weeks ago, we have had  one or two shirt-sleeve days that were almost painfully sunny.  I greeted familiar old trees as long-lost friends, solicitously inquiring after their health after the long, snowy winter.  

Nearly all fared well.  The small female red maple street tree I call Little Mama still has every one of the buds on three twigs I check periodically.  (I am trying to find out why so few buds form new branches; most of the buds must fail eventually, but not so far.)  

A big white pine on the other side of the block has suffered, though.  Two biggish limbs (butts of diameter 3 and 4 inches) fell some time during the winter.  I only spotted these a few days ago, but they may have been covered with snow before that.  More ominously is the browning of needles on several limbs: the browning begins at the tips and proceeds toward the bases.  A few minutes on the web brings up several possibilities, from salt damage to ozone damage.  The likeliest seems to be "winter burn," caused by dessication of the needles--especially since the damage is confined to a few limbs on the south (sunward) side of the tree.  I'm guessing this will go away in time. 

Four eastern hemlock trees not too far from the white pine all have browning needles on the lowest limbs.  I hope this is another case of winter burn: at least one of these trees was being attacked by wooly adelgids last season, but the damage seems too great to have been caused by the alien invasive insects that hide under the cottony white masses that mark the undersides of infected twigs. 

Today, April 2nd, I walked past long stretches of snow in 50+ degree sunshine, and wondered when we last had significant snow cover this late in the year.  I'm not talking about the snowplow Everests in the mall or school parking lots, or even the piles cleared from sidewalks and driveways, but snow that lies where it fell.  Especially in north-facing yards, undisturbed snow is often four to six inches deep. 

 Big red maple (Acer rubrum) of neighbor is bursting with flower buds.

Little Mama's buds are unscathed by nights below zero Fahrenheit and repeated snowfall.

 Big white pine with browing needles.

 Hemlocks infested with wooly adelgid also show winter damage.

A good deal of snow has disappeared just in the last few days: March 29, April 1, April 2.

 But there is still a lot of snow on the ground--not everywhere, but certainly in shaded sites.
In these yards, almost no shoveling has been done except for driveways.
A neighbor allows his single sugar maple to be tapped. 
The syrup from sap of several such trees has won prizes at local fairs.

I know--not native, but prettier than the native early-bloomer: skunk cabbage!

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