March 20, 2013 was the northern hemisphere’s first day of spring! This is determined by a celestial event called the vernal equinox. There are two times of the year that an equinox occurs, spring and autumn. Equinox, meaning Equal Night is the day when the Earth’s axis is neither tilted towards nor away from the sun.
Phenology is the study of plant and life cycles and how they respond to seasonal changes in the environment. Much of this is focused around first signs of spring, such as the emergence of leaves, flowers, appearance of migratory birds and the development cycles of honey bees.
In my favorite seed starting book, “The Seed- Starting Handbook” by Nancy Bubel she states, ” The more you become attuned to what is going on around you outdoors, the sharper your sixth sense about the weather will become. Soon you will find it possible to sniff the air, watch the moon, feel the breeze, and make at least an educated guess about the possibility of frost at night.”
Though it doesn’t really feel like spring due to the cold weather we have had this past week, start looking for the signs that spring has returned. I have noticed my blueberry bushes getting leaves and more flowers blooming on them. We saw the bees at the farm out and about one warm and sunny day last week, gathering pollen. I’ve read sources that say earthworms are more active.
There is a source called Poor Will’s Almanack that talks about phenology from an agricultural point of view. The Almanack was not published this year but is available online at http://www.poorwillsalmanack.com/
This is what the site says about this week March 17-23, 2013:
White cabbage butterflies are the surest sign of the final days of early spring. And once you notice the familiar white cabbage butterfly, then you know the more elusive mourning cloak butterflies and the question mark butterflies and the tortoise shell butterflies and the tiny blues are flying, too.
When you see cabbage butterflies, then you know that gold finches are turning gold, and you may soon see ants working on the sidewalk.
If you see a cabbage butterfly, then you know that catfish have begun spring feeding and breeding. If you see a cabbage butterfly, then green bottle flies have hatched and termites are swarming, looking for new sweet wood to eat.
When cabbage moths are out, then soft sprouts of touch-me-nots have emerged in the wetlands and the branches of weeping willow trees are turning pale yellow-green as their buds expand. In the city, cornus mas shrubs produce golden blossoms, promising forsythia in the first week of middle spring.
If you see a white cabbage butterfly on your way to work, you can know that hepatica and twinleaf are pushing out in the sanctuary of the woodlands. Toad trillium and Dutchman’s britches are ready to open there, the entire spectrum of wildflowers surging to encounter April.
Take notes, make observations and enjoy!