Thursday, April 2, 2009

Southland in the Springtime

We have returned from our Journey South; I have tasted spring and returned to the starving almost-north. While we were gone, on Mar 28-29, 6 inches of snow fell on Chicago's northern suburbs; some of it remains in the corner of the yard. But we missed all that...

We left on Friday night and drove pretty much straight south. Past Chicagoland, it was night time, and so I could not see changes as they occurred. (Interesting sighting in Chicago, though... tents in the forest preserves, not in any sort of sanctioned campsites. Is nature now the place to look for signs about the economy, as well? Are these the newly homeless victims of forclosure? Crazy.) Anyhow.

We drove until quite late, stopped in Louisville, KY, and awoke to resume our drive while it was still dark. The sun rose while we were somewhere between Louisville and Lexington; although perhaps I should say the day broke (we did not see the sun at all on Saturday). The hills of Kentucky were wonderfully green, even through the mist. The roadside grass was verdant; yellow daffodils swayed in the wind. The understory of the forest -- the layer that here we might call the buckthorn-and-honeysuckle later, and there seems to be absent of buckthorn but still has honeysuckle -- was leafy. The taller trees had no leaves yet, but almost all were flowering or seeding, having already flowered (as in the case of maples). From a distance, this had a hazy coloring effect. It was like a subtle fall. Rather than the bold crimson and gold of autumn, the trees were coated in the muted burgandy and chartreuse of tree flowers. Understated. Beautiful more in the hopeful sense of things to come than anything else.

As we continued into West Virginia, Virginia, and finally North Carolina, we saw more showy flowering trees polka dotting the woods, like redbud, dogwood and some sort of fruit trees. Some tall trees were actually leafing out, though the leaves were tiny.

It seemed leaves actually grew larger and more plentiful each day of our trip. There were many factors in play, here... time, elevation, latitude, and possibly my imagination. But actually, once leaves emerge, they grow measurably each day, so it is quite likely that there were more and larger leaves every day. Even in Ohio, there was a lot of green. Until, of course, we returned here, where the only leaves I've seen are on honeysuckles. (Boo.)

The best part of the trip, nature-viewing-wise, was the wildflowers. Spring ephemerals... their name says it all. Who wouldn't be thrilled to happen upon something ephemeral? Here are some photos...
1. Bloodroot (Ohio, also blooming in NC)
2. Dutchman's breeches (Ohio)
3. Spring Beauties (N. Carolina)
4-5. Hepatica (Ohio). Note color variations, which range from purple to pink to white.
6. Mayapple (NC; some were fully umbrella-ed, but I like this photo)
7. Trillium (Ohio, at similar stage in NC)
8. Naomi sketching ephemerals. I quite wish I had a scanner so I could put sketches in; I am a better plant sketcher than photographer, but... oh, well.
Also seen, but now shown, because, really, who wants to look at too many photos... rue anenome, cutleaf toothwort, violets, trout lilies (leaves only), some yellow flower that wasn't fully open and therefore I couldn't ID, and probably more that I am not thinking of now.
Meanwhile, back in Illinois:
A friend saw the first garter snakes, 4/1. Turtle, 4/1. Trout lilies emerging, 4/1. Wild garlic emerging, 4/1?.
And, I planted many seeds indoors for that day, 6-8 weeks in the future, when frost danger is over and veggies can go outside. Planned to plant cold season crops outside today, but it is supposed to possibly snow again so I will wait a few days.

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