Friday, March 11, 2016

Red Maples in Bloom

 The flowers above are from a female tree.  The deep red finger-like stigmas emerging from the buds will receive the pollen.  But the male tree below isn't quite ready to bloom and begin releasing pollen.

Despite myself, finding red maples beginning to bloom today caught me by surprise.  Last year our red maples bloomed about April 15th, twelve days after the silver maples--earliest of the trees nearby.  But this year silver maple bloomed more than a month earlier than last (probably due to the unseasonably warm weather).  And it is now again twelve days since the silver maples bloomed!  Maples, at least, seem to be reading the same playbook.  

Red maple (Acer rubrum) is dioecious--meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate trees.  (This is a bit unusual, since most plants combine male and female in the same plant--and most often in the same flower.)  The trees I saw just beginning to bloom were females.  A nearby male won't bloom for another day or so.  

As a school boy, I took the arrival of red maple flowers to mean that school wouldn't go on forever, even if there was still a ways to go.

Since red maple is among the commonest native trees in southern New England, look for them to brighten your neighborhood and even the highways for the next couple of weeks.  If the flowering of silver maples was the "trial balloon," the blooming of red maple is the true beginning for the growing season hereabouts.  Look for other trees to leaf out or bloom in an rapid crescendo of new growth.

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