Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wild Plants And Wooly Bears

Spring officially arrives three days from now, on March 20. But in fact, it’s already here.

Today, by mid-morning, temperatures had shot up to the low 60s, prompting me to set aside all thoughts of work and go for a walk outside. The first thing that struck my eye was a small, orange-and-black butterfly.

To the best of my knowledge (I find butterfly identification maddeningly difficult), this was a hop merchant, or comma butterfly, a member of the Polygonia genus. These are also commonly called, “angel wings,” owing to the somewhat erratic shape of their wings.

This is one of the earliest butterflies to emerge, beating even the mourning cloak. All the same, never, ever, have any butterflies appeared around my Waldo home in mid-March.

Next, I gasped at the sight of blue crocus in full bloom, on a gravel bank by my house. These are at least three weeks ahead of schedule. I got down on my knees and marveled at this sure sign of spring.

A few days ago, coltsfoot began showing on a hillside by my farm pond. Today, many more have opened, shining bright yellow in the warm, spring sunshine.

As I walked, a warm breeze wafted a sweet, almost cloying, aroma over me. My heart jumped, as if physically recounting the most pleasant of memories. I became fully aware of my surroundings in every way, the milky, spring sunlight, the gentle, aromatic breeze, the sounds of woodpeckers hammering and crows squabbling in the distance. The essence of spring, gushing out for us to enjoy.

Next, digging down at the base of some dried-up stalks of last season’s Japanese knotweed, I found the little, red tip of what will soon become this years shoot. This, too, was at least three weeks ahead of time.

And along the edge of my gravel drive, I found the fernlike, shoots of Equisetum arvense, or field horsetail.

Perhaps in coming years, when spring seems so far away, the memory of St. Patrick’s Day, 2010, will buoy my spirits.

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