When winters are long and cold as is the case here in the Northland, local folks will look to any hint of the coming spring. The first robin is a standard. There are other phenological events which deserve equal billing though, and are likely more accurate in marking progress towardÂ summer.
About 10 days agoÂ someone from Jamestown reported hearing the first western chorus frog, then a couple days laterÂ IÂ heard some too. TheÂ first butterfly (anÂ eastern comma, which overwinters as an adult) wasÂ spotted aboutÂ the same time.
Flowers areÂ another indication. Tulips are not reliable because usually they are artificially warmed by growingÂ near someone’s foundation. No, the most telling blossom is that of the pasque flower, a prairie native and one so tough it often blooms through the snow.Â But unless you go out to grasslands you won’t see these diminutive beauties.
(pasque flower courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service)
The next few flowers in sequence go largely unnoticed by most folks because they are either not aware or theyÂ don’t look up. I’m talking about our trees. Yes, trees. TheÂ first trees to flower around here are usuallyÂ our only locally native maple–the box elder. Here’s one from last weekend ready toÂ burst:
Then there’s the troubled (by Dutch Elm Disease) American elm, thatÂ regal stalwart which used to line virtually every boulevard in town. They are quickly becoming sparse as diseased trees continue to be removed every year but they flower extremely early as this one was along the Red River last weekend:
IÂ know these are not showy like tulips or daffodils but for early blossoms, at least in town, my money’s on the trees.