Phenology Daybook: The Arrival of Middle Spring

My dream world today was a sunlit April woods at sunset time, beyond which were immense misty valleys.

Charles Burchfield, JOURNAL

The blooming of bright yellow forsythia bushes always announces the arrival of Middle Spring. This is the time that the remaining daffodils and grape hyacinths flower and that wildflower season unfolds in the woods with the blossoming of early violet cress, twinleaf, periwinkle, spring beauty, hepatica and small-flowered bittercress. Early meadow rue and May apples are pushing up out of the ground. Cowslip is budding in the swamp, and leaves grow long on the skunk cabbage. Columbine, phlox and lupine emerge in the garden.

 When forsythia shrubs bloom, then the first buckeye, apple and peach trees leaf out. At dusk, the first frogs and toads sing. Killdeer become common, and woodcocks call near sunset with a nasal sounding “peent.” Barn swallows arrive at the barns, and the first baby barred owl hatches.

When forsythia blooms, then farmers seed the first of the oats and field corn. In town, the lawn is almost long enough to cut. Then nettles, chicory and leafcup are six to eight inches tall, Asiatic lilies and columbine three to five inches. Garlic mustard is forming clumps. Some sweet rockets and money plants are getting ready to send out their flower stalks.

Hops vines twine around the honeysuckle. Japanese knotweed catches up with the rhubarb (just about big enough for a small pie). Water rushes and purple loosestrife, water lilies and pickerel plants have suddenly produced foliage in the ponds and streams where small diving water beetles hunt for food.

Pussy willows are at their peak, white magnolias bloom in town, snow trillium along the rivers, spring beauties in the woods. Across the bottomlands, soft touch-me-nots sprout, coveted ramps push up their medicinal foliage to pace the stalks of daylilies, and precocious bleeding hearts.


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