As a professional gardener I was never surprised that work slowed down a bit in the winter here in New Hampshire-ground that is frozen solid doesn’t hoe well. Each year at about this time I’d start to feel a little anxious-full of energy and excitement- wanting those southerly winds to bring us some spring weather. After it finally got here and I’d had a day or two of working in the warm sun again I’d be walking with a spring in my step, whistling a happy tune. (If you need a happy tune to whistle, just click here.)
March 1st is the meteorological start of spring here in the North Eastern U.S., and at dawn that day I positioned my tripod on top of the crusty snow for a shot of the waning gibbous moon stuck in the trees. The clouds parted just long enough in the morning to get a glimpse of it, and then it clouded over again. The astronomical method of dividing the year into seasons names March 20 as the first day of spring.
Over the weekend I followed an abandoned road that was hacked through the bedrock in the early 1700s. Ledges line parts of that road-this one is about 12 feet high with ice that looks impressive but is rotting and dangerous to climb. It’s hard to describe rotten ice but it is weakened by melt water running over and through it due to warmer temperatures. Once you’ve seen it, you know it. Since it means spring is nearby, I like to see it.
Mosses can go through some very cold temperatures and still look like they have just come up in the spring. I thought it would be a cinch to identify this one but once again, nature threw me a curve ball. It resembles both Fissidens and Neckera mosses, so not only am I not sure of the species, I can’t even get to the genus. Whatever it is, I thought it was unusual and beautiful enough to include here.
One of my favorite native shrubs is hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides,) which will be covered with large white, showy flowers in May. Its buds have no scales so they are open to all that nature can throw at them all winter long, just like those of witch hazel. This particular bush was really stunning last spring and I found myself wishing it was in my yard. I can’t wait to see it in bloom again. The flower bud between the two tiny leaves tells me that it will. If you would like to see what it looks like when it is blooming just click here.
Split gill mushrooms (Schizophyllum commune) wear fuzzy white coats in winter. Actually they wear these coats at any time, but when they’ve had adequate moisture they appear less fuzzy. The common name refers to the way the folds on their underside resemble gills that have split lengthwise. I haven’t been able to find out if they stay this way all winter or if they start growing in spring, but seeing them makes it feel like spring.
Nothing says spring in New Hampshire like a sap bucket hanging from a maple tree. Once spring turns on the flow it doesn’t stop until fall. It’s a good sign that the earth is thawing.
At first I thought this was a jelly fungus but the small bit to the left shaped like a jelly bean didn’t fit with a jelly fungus. Then, because there are lichens that mimic jelly fungi, I thought it might be one of those, but again, the jelly bean didn’t fit. I finally decided that the only thing that is tomato red and looks like a jelly bean that I know of is wolf’s milk slime mold (Lycogala epidendrum,) also called toothpaste slime mold. The smeared parts are “jelly beans” (fruiting bodies) that have been crushed. If slime molds are growing it must be warming up.
I found this odd specimen on a willow branch. Since it is smiling, maybe it’s just as happy that spring is coming as I am. Actually this is a stem gall which was formed when Rhabdophaga midges burrowed into the willow’s stem last year, but I can see an eye, a nose, and a smiley mouth. And even a pointy hat.
The skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is looking very red this year. Last year it was a much darker purple. There is a large swamp in Swanzey, New Hampshire where hundreds of these plants grow. Many grow on a hillside that is submerged for much of the winter but dries out a bit in spring, making it easier to get photos of them. Seeing them is always a good sign that spring is near. Smelling them is difficult.
The cloud deck over Mount Monadnock shows what our weather has been like for the past 2 weeks. Short glimpses of sun are all we’ve seen through small breaks in clouds that stretch from horizon to horizon. Spring is coming, but it isn’t coming quickly or easily-it seems like it’s going to have to be pried from the cold fist of winter one warm, sunny day at a time. I’ll just have to be patient, like the mountain.
The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke
Thanks for stopping in.