Monday, April 6, 2015

Of course it's spring, but is it really SPRING already?

Spring is not defined by weather, nor the "springing" of plants into action, but by astronomy: it begins at the vernal equinox--March 20--when the noon-day sun stands directly over the equator on its path into the northern hemisphere.  (--from our point of view, of course.  Really it's the result of the the tilt of Earth's axis and its changing position around the sun.)  The name means "equal night," and on this day all latitudes in both northern and southern hemispheres get the same day length, and roughly twelve hours of darkness. 

But of course that's not all we care about. 

I, for one, tend to think of late March and early April as a time of waiting: the weather is warming, and soon things will be jumping--just not quite yet. 

So when I walked the dogs Saturday I didn't expect anything more than a nice stroll in the warm sunshine (which is enough blessing, after all) and almost didn't bring my camera.  The red maples I think of as the early trees around here are still gearing up for their big act, after all.  But I was astonished to see the neighbor's silver maple in bloom.  I visited another to confirm that it wasn't a fluke, and went to see still another today to take close-ups. 

Meanwhile, I read elsewhere that quaking aspen is an early tree, so today I went behind the high school and found them just coming into bloom. 

That's right: there's still a little snow left, but the trees aren't waiting!

These are shaded yards on Saturday 4/4;
two days later what snow remains is in isolated patches.

Red maple (Acer rubrum) buds are tender and beginning to expand.

 Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) flowers are small, making trees look fuzzy at a distance.

This tree is monoecious (bearing male and female flowers on the same tree);
the lowest flower cluster has a male flower at nine-o'clock (see pollen-bearing
red anthers on white filaments), with a female flower directly above it at 10:30
(tentacle-like red styles reaching forth to receive pollen). 

 At a glance, you might take this for pussy willow, but
it's really quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) just beginning to bloom.

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