Yesterday morning was just above freezing, but the previous week saw temperatures to the mid 50s and 60s most days. In Maple Grove, the Enemion is in full bloom. Virginia bluebells have extended their necks up above the tips of their foliage and appear ready to bloom. The first true leaves are hiding between pennylike cotyledons at the tip of the jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) shoots. Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) leaves and stems are unrolling while the bloodroot petals are falling off in droves, exposing the ripening capsules. Sugar maple buds are 2 to 3 times as long this week as they were just 7 days ago, about to open, and on their seedlings, foliage leaves are starting to take shape between the straplike cotyledons. Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) leaves are flattening out, flower buds closed on the soil at their bases. Flowers have begun opening on the Uvularia grandiflora. Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) leaves are unfurling. Swamp buttercup (Ranunculus hispidus) is in bloom. The spring sedges are about to flower: Carex pensylvanica with its dark spikes and the gracile inflorescences of Carex woodii, while the slender erect shoots of Carex sprengelii show no flowers. By afternoon the temperatures were in the 50s. At about 7 p.m., I realized that every car in line at the carwash was filthy. Tree pollen? Dirty rain? By 8:45 the moon was full, and Sirius was bright in the west. We slept with the windows open.
As a consequence, my wife and I awoke at 3:45 this morning to singing robins. I arrived at the Arboretum and started walking out through the conifer collection just as the sun was rising. Tree swallows, chipping sparrows, red-wing blackbirds, song sparrows and chickadees were all going strong. The big Quercus montana just west of the research building is in bloom, and staminate flowers on the blue ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata) east of the Children’s Garden are dark and packed full of stamens waiting to open up. Pyrus ussuriensis is in bloom along the trail out through the East Woods. Cleavers (Galium aparine) has overtopped the trout lilies, leaf tips purple in at least one colony west of Crowley Marsh. Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) leaves have unfurled as high as my boot-top. About a third of the Geranium maculatum leaves are about fully open, and floral buds are closed at the bases of the petioles. Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) leaves have burst open, reflexed scales an inch or so long, individual leaves to three inches in diameter, clusters of leaves making a handful of six to ten from each bud. Poms of yellow stamens decorate the Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) branches. Viola sororia, Thalictrum thalictroides and swamp buttercup are in bloom. Marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris) are blooming at the base of the boardwalk overlooking Bur Reed Marsh. The first pistillate flowers are out on a single blackened spike of Carex pensylvanica, and floral buds have formed on Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans) and Anemone quinquefolia. Chorus frogs are creaking, slowly this morning.
Through almost the whole walk, I had lyrics from The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead running through my head. As I rounded the trail back toward the Research Building, just west of Parking Lot 15, I squeezed the Smiths out of my head long enough to realize that the birds were no longer singing. Why? Time of day? It was now about 45 minutes past sunrise, and perhaps the birds were in need of a break. Or is there something about this stretch of woods between P15 and P16? In the Arbor Vitae plantation to the north I might have expected silence, but here was a small ravine, a colony of Dutchman’s breeches in bloom, flowers hovering above the foliage, a little brush in the understory… it seemed a perfect place to be a bird. Whatever the reason, as I walked in the silence toward the road, the opening stanza of Canterbury Tales appeared suddenly where the The Smiths had been just a few minutes earlier:
Whan that April with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swiche licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
What Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inpsired hath in every holt and heethe
The tendre croppes, and the younge sonne
Hath in the Ram his half cours y-rronne,
… and here I had forgotten the middle lines. I repeated these over to myself till I had them right, then picked up two more as I through the ground cover garden and made my way into work:
So priketh hem nature in hir corages:
Than longen folk to goon on pilrimages…
It’s that season now, when you wake up to robins and don’t know quite what will have happened in the previous few days. April has soaked the place down, Zephyrus has inspired the wildflowers and is working on the trees, and the solar year is young. It’s the time of year when I simultaneously miss the silence of winter and can’t wait for the next day.