Thursday, March 19, 2015

'Twas the day before Spring's start

I really enjoyed the sunshine and 60F warmth of a week ago. Now that the local weather is back to 40F cool and cloudy, our early taste of Spring reminds me of how much I'm looking forward to its return. For now, I'll settle for noting that the oaks' marcescent leaves continue to come loose and sail down and away in our March winds.

I bet you know tomorrow is the Vernal Equinox, the start of astronomical Spring. In anticipation, I spent part of yesterday identifying a different winter wildflower before that field guide gets put away for the season. The plant in question looks like this:

Beard-Tongue or beardtongue (Penstemon sp?)
Photo by J. Harrington

The Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter guide identifies it as Beard-Tongue (Penstemon digitalis). I thought I was home free at that point. Then I checked the Prairie Plants guide. It lists three different species of Beard-Tongue: Tall, Slender, and Large-Flowered. I couldn't remember what last Summer's flowers looked like and the sketches of Winter plants look a lot alike (and I'm not a botanist) so I then thought I might make progress checking the USDA plant database for Penstemon, which they identify as beardtongue (no hyphen, no capitalization). Their listing for Minnesota Penstemons brings up 16 records. I can see I'm going to be spending time next Summer with a wildflower guide in hand and a camera sorting this out. I'll let you know how it turns out. Meanwhile, I can confirm that the St. Croix River is mostly ice free around Stillwater and, I imagine, looks something like this a few miles upstream. Our local lakes are still ice covered and the pond and stream up the road have refrozen.

St. Croix River, ice out
Photo by J. Harrington

We continue to enjoy Minnesota's two steps forward, one step back approach to Spring weather that makes me think of Carl Sandburg's wonderful poem:

FOG

THE fog comes
on little cat feet.


It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
I hope you enjoy our Spring's coming in on little cat feet, stopping, sitting on its haunches and then moving on. She'll arrive eventually.

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