Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ready, Set ...

Bloom!  I went to Macon yesterday for a conference and was surprised at all the plants blooming along the roads.  I must live in a cold pocket - elsewhere obviously Spring is upon us!  Branches glowing with a deep red mist belong to our native red maple (Acer rubrum), one of the first native trees to flower.  Other trees sported greenish branches as they began to leaf out ahead of their flowers.

Acer rubrum flowers just emerging

In Georgia we are fortunate to be able to celebrate spring a little earlier than some parts of the country – Hepatica has been blooming at my house for several weeks, and I found my first trout lily bloom this week (and by the end of the week there were many more than that first one). 

But don’t let these early herbaceous blooms distract you from the lengthening of woody buds and the emergence of those first few tender leaves on our trees and shrubs. I find the process of growth so much more interesting on these plants – perhaps their branches offer a most visible window into the process of new growth.  Tightly packed buds swell and lengthen, causing the bud scales to fall away and allowing the new growth to emerge.  Tiny leaves, perfect miniatures of their mature forms, begin the process of capturing sunlight and making food for the plant.  In some cases, of course, flowers may emerge first, feeding those first insects whose life-cycle has evolved to be there just at this moment.

On Monday of this week I discovered these early leaves on the crabapples (Malus angustifolia).  Just a few days before, these were sparkling, ruby-colored dots against the brown-grey branches.  Now they are unfolding, first as translucent red leaves and then gradually turning green as they mature and grow.

Malus angustifolia

Cercis canadensis buds
Cercis candadensis blooms

Here is a redbud (Cercis canadensis) flower bud just beginning to open.  In about a month, this tree will be covered with the purplish pea-like flowers that delight us.

Aesculus pavia

Aesculus pavia in 2008

A red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) bud is also swelling with the promise of flowers.  The earliest hummingbirds will appreciate the bright red flowers.

It is time to keep the camera nearby, ready to capture those fleeting blossoms.  The flowers will be coming quickly now.  Photographing them is a great way to remember those beautiful blooms.  It also helps me notice details and keep track of bloom times from year to year.  And, as you can see above, it helps me show you what blooms WILL look like later (those flowering pictures of Redbud and Buckeye are from previous years).

I am still learning about some of the features on my digital camera.  I learned a couple of years ago that I would get better pictures if I’d let the camera do the focusing.  I also realized that using the tiny view finder prevented me from seeing whether the camera had properly focused.  Now I use the big screen on the back of the camera to watch the camera focus; once it is focused on what I want (sometimes it focuses on the wrong area!) then I press the button. 

Digital cameras are great for “do-overs” until you get the picture you want.  Be sure to learn how to review your pictures on site so that you can see if you got the picture you wanted.  You don’t want to figure out that you missed the shot when it is too late to try again.

So get out there and take some pictures.  I will be doing the same and hope to share some of my “good ones” with you in the months to come.

P.S. That bright white tree blooming on the side of the road is not necessarily something to admire.  I saw a lot of escaped ‘Bradford’ pears on I-75 yesterday.  These are thorny trees that grew from the fruit that some ornamental pears are developing lately.  They bloom earlier than any of our native white flowering trees and usually have a very upright shape.  You can read more about this escaped plant in the delightfully informative article “Who Let the Pears Out?”.

1 comment:

  1. Good afternoon Ellen,

    My name is Kelley Arnold and I am the Watershed Coordinator for the Stratford Area Watershed Improvement Group/Town of Stratford located on Prince Edward Island Canada. We recently received a small grant to develop/print an Acadian Forest Field Guide, aimed at youth from grades 3-6. We are in the development stage, and are frantically trying to gather all of the data and photos for printing at the end of April in time for distribution at our annual “Water School”.

    I have been trying to locate a good photo of red maple flowers in spring, and discovered your photo through Google. I am inquiring as to whether I could get permission to use your photo within our field guide; the photo would be cited of course, along with a website reference at the back of the guide.

    Any information or permission(s) for use from your site would be greatly appreciated! Please feel free to contact me at this email address, or at 902-367-3605.

    Warm regards,