Sunday, February 15, 2009

Early signs of spring: skunk cabbage and honeysuckle

Today the weather is colder than it has been for about a week. We had started filling the bird bath again, because it was so warm all week and the birds were out in abundance. But we woke up this morning and found it covered with ice.

But because the skies were so clear, we decided to bundle up and head out to the woods in Wheaton Regional Park for a short hike despite the cold air. While out there, I found the first sprouts of skunk cabbage were pushing up through the rich, dark mud along the creek. (I cursed the fact that I'd left my camera behind, so no pictures to share... if only I'd learn how to actually use that camera that came in my phone. )

I also noticed that the native trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) that grows along our fence is leafing out as of this weekend. The leaves are tiny, as you can see in the photo above. But I happened to notice them because they wrap around the posts just outside the kitchen window. It seems early for them to be out, but I also know that corner of our yard is an intensely warm micro-climate. Besides facing southwest, the honeysuckle grows next to a brick wall which absorbs a ton of heat. In fact, the leaves closest to the house are much bigger than those that are on top of the fence.

I wonder if anyone else's are out... I will probably ask around on local listservs this afternoon to find out.
I also plan to make an entry about it in Project Budburst. This fantastic project, run by the National Phenology Network, was the subject of a story I wrote for the Voice newspapers last year April. They are using citizen scientists to track the leafing out and blooming of plants in North America, in order to see if the timing of the seasons is changing.

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