Nature Notes ~ Seasonal Transitions

Nature Notes ~ Seasonal Transitions

“April is mutinous,” as a beloved team member describes the weather in New York. And she’s not wrong. Spring came, and spring went, and back again, and gone with the wind. The overthrowing of Winter is no small task here on the western flank of the Catskill Mountains, but it’s one that happens every year with all the thrilling ebbs and flows of a well-plotted story.

With a late winter snow and early spring rains, warm weather moved in quickly, sending every living, root-bound being skyward in a frenzy. Nettles and garlic mustard rising, trillium, trout lilies, and wood anemones abloom. Dandelions grew half a foot overnight. Apples blossomed and the migratory birds moved in. We were dancing to the hum and thrum of the celestial strum. All signs pointed to an early Spring.

But the siren song late spring freeze moved in with a blast of a northern front one fateful April night. We covered freshly planted garden seedlings and bid our unprotected blossoms well. The cold snapped, the blossoms fell, and the towering late bloomers were sent whirring back into a semi-dormant state.

black locust tree leaves dying back after a frost

Soaring ash trees, mammoth black locust groves, and oaks (our late-to-bud canopy trees) as well as edge-dwelling staghorn sumacs all had to cut their losses on their young leaves. And then the rain stopped and the earthly thermostat cranked for a couple long, dry weeks, which we are in the midst of now. Back to square one it seemed.

From a distance, it has been a sad sight to behold. The parched earth and sullen late bloomers make for a desiccated view. But if you edge closer, beneath the overstory, a world in waiting emerges. In locust groves and under woodland ash stands, where the sun is typically blotted out, light penetrates the understory, stirring seed banks and saplings. Elder trees, brambles, woodland ephemerals, and surprises abound drink in the extra light this year, casting their own shade, reaching their own heights, esteemed by the seniors above them. New life takes its rightful place in the ecosystem of the Uplands, supported by the forces of nature which nourish flourishing.

And now we wait for the rain.

trout lily emerging on the forest floor

Written by Josh Evans

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