Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Delayed

A rather agitated article in the UK Guardian predicts with breathless anticipation that they will certainly have an explosive, spectacular spring, and blames the cold winter for a late start. Yet the scenes actually described hardly support that level of optimism:

"...there was still precious little sight or sound of a new season. A heron was spotted last week, a few tits were investigating the bat boxes but the grasses were dead, the hedgehog boxes empty and the newts absent...

"But this year, says Matthew Oakes, conservation adviser to the National Trust, harks back to older times when British life, to all natural intents, began near the end of March. 'The trend is to earlier seasons, but this is a slow, late, old fashioned spring,' he said.

Oakes, who keeps meticulous records of nature's first sightings, says wildlife in London is well ahead of the rest of the country because of the "heat island" effect of 12 million people driving cars and heating their homes. "Outside London, everything appears incredibly late this year. It's the first year since 1996 that there have been no bumblebees in January. In the woods very little has been happening. The bluebells and wild garlic are putting up their first spikes and the primroses are just starting. There a little bit of green from honeysuckle and rose but the woods are really leafless.

'Rooks are only building their nests now. The bluebells this year will be very late, perhaps not in full flower until mid-May,' he adds.

Oates's predictions were echoed by Steve Marsh, a conservationist with the Woodland Trust, which has up to 40,000 people recording the arrival of the seasons and posting sightings on the web. He said: 'This has been an exceptional season. We've only had one blackthorn in blossom so far, yet usually we would have 1,000 or more sightings by now. There have been only 10 recordings of coltsfoot when we would have expected hundreds. And it's the same with celandines. Normally we would see them now right across the UK, but this year there has been sparse coverage in the south and midlands and almost none reported in northern England and Scotland". But he adds that even this year's "late" spring is early compared to 1970s.'"

So, is it late, or is it early? Could there be any other reason there is a dearth of flowers?

Here is yet another article about the lack of daffodils - also being blamed on the harsh winter. However, daffodils don't mind cold, otherwise they wouldn't thrive in New England!

I decided to visit Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, to see how spring is progressing here in New Jersey.
Hellebores are supposed to emerge this early, but not the daffodils!
Here is a link to the Frelinghusen Arboretum website which says, late April to early May are the normal time for daffodils and cherries.
Wait, wait! What month is it again? oh right...March...

Certainly you would not expect to see a cyclamen in flower! Quite frankly I am astonished it survived the winter.
Dwarf Iris and Japanese Andromeda have also jumped the gun. Typically they bloom at exactly this Maryland, not New Jersey.
There are some majestic tall trees as would be expected in this 270 acre park.
This sugar maple is losing its bark.
The difference in color indicates where patches have been popping off, and falling on the ground.
This maple in front of the post-colonial mansion, now park headquarters, is experiencing advanced decay.
Areas of rot are visible on the exterior.
It is suffering from cankers that result from the growth of a fatal fungus.
All around on the ground are chunks of the bark.
Here is a blooming crown of acer rubrum franksred.
This viburnum smelled absolutely heavenly.
The rich perfume attracted many bees.
viburnum bodnantense! It is an early bloomer, before the leaves are out.
Many sorts of witchhazels are at peak bloom.
The Japanese Cornelian Cherry is just budding out.
In a few days it will be a riot of mustard yellow.
The bark however is a warning that this small tree is facing an existential threat.

The deep fissures will allow insects to invade, among other problems indicated by such scarring.
This Southern Magnolia has severe damage.
This is a typical example of the leaves, and many are falling on the ground.
Some bark is supposed to look mottled, like this stewartia pseudocamellia.
And some foliage is meant to be variegated like these conifer needles.
The trunk of this little tree however indicates it is not well.
Catkins of this salix chaenomeloides were dazzling against the sky.
They are much larger than our native pussywillow.
And, I love my new camera!
This dymnocladus dioica (Kentucky Coffee Tree) is still festooned with seed pods...
although most have dropped. Like the locust trees, this species threw all its energy last year into producing enormous crops of seeds in a vain effort to reproduce before they expire.
Unless we stop poisoning the atmosphere, there isn't much prospect for future generations, whether arboreal or homo sapiens.
The blooming magnolias in March were just preposterous!
Although, it was a pleasure to see them.
They smell fantastic, too.
I love the waxy texture of the petals.
But the branches have holes, and fungal growths.
This woman is plainly baffled by the extraordinarily early flowering. Note, she is wearing short sleeves and sandles in the middle of March, a day that was predicted to have a high of 75 degrees but was closer to 80.
This prunus subhirtella cv. Autumnalis (Higan Cherry) is blooming as well.
The trunk has a gaping breach.
And the bark is peeling off.
The presence of the lichen make this specimen a good candidate for the BALDing syndrome - Bark Atrophy Lichen Decline.
The flowers are pretty but there is no question this tree is in decline AKA dying.
Further along is a budding prunus. cv. okame.
It is likewise afflicted with splitting, peeling bark.
The gashes are excruciating.
Soon it will be in full flower.
Some of the older trees on the outskirts of the gardens aren't labeled, and I'm not sure what they are, absent leaves.
But I am quite sure they are losing bark.
For a while when it first began to appear, I wasn't sure whether this reddening of trunks and bark was due to a growth on the surface...
or a loss of bark revealing a different hue.
Now I'm fairly certain it is the latter.
On this tree, a chunk fell off at the slightest touch,
which clearly revealed the source of the reddening.
This Kousa dogwood looks like it as been burned.
The hole in this trunk is extreme but in general it's becoming more and more common to find holes where the base of a trunk meets the ground, which isn't a good sign for stability.
Here is a jasminum nudiflorum exploding with flowers.
No scent, however.
I have always had an intense aversion to mahonia. I think they look nasty with their sharp stabby leaves.
And the smell of their flowers is so sweet it is revolting.
So, I wasn't too sorry to see the classic discoloring which is a symptom of exposure to toxic greenhouse gases.
This trunk belongs to a Redbaron crabapple. It's not going to survive that kind of cracking for long.
prunusxblireiana will meet the same fate.
I loved the intense color of the prunus mume cv koba.
Also known as Japanese Apricot.
The trunk here is badly cracked also.
This branch is well past losing bark.
As I am writing this I am listening to the health care debate, live. It is sickening the ludicrous waste of time these legislators squander to stand up at the podium and recite talking points, verbatim, one after the other, attempting a slightly different inflection each time, to be SPECIAL.
Aauggh. Never mind. Here is a recently planted acer saccharum, a sugar maple cultivar with deeply scarred bark.
It is not only trees that are being poisoned by airborne volatile organic chemicals.
Evergreen shrubs such as this elaeagnus x ebbingei have the classic symptoms of foliate that has damaged stomata, and cannot photosynthesize to produce essential chlorophyll.
The foliage is singed, yellowing, or just plain dead brown.
The trend is downhill, for this stravaesia davidian.
The leaves here too have started to turn dry brown. It is the same as starvation- they shrink, and shrivel.
Perhaps the robin realizes the pigment of these leaves reveals exposure to nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide, and aldehydes.
He may be contemplating an uncertain future which is in the hands of humans too selfish, stupid and greedy to even attempt the most modest conservation of fossil and biofuels.

I apologize to you, Robin, for my murderous species.


  1. catman here:

    Leonard Cohen "The Future" 1992

    'take the last living tree and stick it up the hole in your culture'

  2. Gail, your photographs are just gorgeous - you have a great talent for recording the beauty of nature, as well as the damage and destruction.

  3. Thank to both of you for comments and your support. It means a lot to me!


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