Friday, July 14, 2017

Augury of Autumn #phenology

In case you missed the memo, we are now nearing the apex (peak), or nadir (pits), depending on how you view heat and humidity, of Summer's dog days. The 10-day weather forecast looks to encourage at least some "lethargy, inactivity, or indolence" among even such Summer-lovers as I. Just count it as a price we must pay to enjoy the benefits of road construction season. The superabundant deer flies, and whatever kind of small flies hatched and are now hanging around our oak leaves, seem to love it (heat, that is, they don't care about road construction unless it slows down potential victims).

northern red oak leaves and acorn
northern red oak leaves and acorn
Photo by J. Harrington

Earlier this week, the northern red oak that partially shades our deck started dropping a few acorns, Autumn's auguries. The crop is not what I'd consider an abundance, but not entirely sparse either. As I recall, we had a very large mast crop in 2015, so a pattern that suggests "White oak and red oak appear to be on a 3-year-cycle" foretells that next year there should be an overabundance of acorns in our neck of the woods. In fact, last year's observations showed more nuts, or at least a higher nut density, than this year. We'll have to be sure to spray the edible bushes with deer repellent this Autumn, since it may be a hungry Winter for whitetails. The squirrels will just try harder and more frequently at the feeders.

strange fly hatch on oak leaves
strange fly hatch on oak leaves
Photo by J. Harrington

Much of what I've learned about our oaks, and the other trees and shrubs around here, has come from Welby R. Smith's Trees and Shrubs of Minnesota. I no doubt would learn more from reading it if I ever make myself sit down and learn more fundamentals of botany. Dealing with scientific writing makes me more and more sympathetic to those learning English as a second language. The vagaries of English probably equal or exceed the complexities of tree identification when faced with: "Hybrids between northern red oak and northern pin oak are relatively common in central Minnesota." I suspect the deer don't much care which kinds of corns they're knoshing on.

Trees Need Not Walk the Earth



Trees need not walk the earth  
For beauty or for bread;  
Beauty will come to them  
Where they stand.  
Here among the children of the sap
Is no pride of ancestry:  
A birch may wear no less the morning  
Than an oak.  
Here are no heirlooms  
Save those of loveliness, 
In which each tree  
Is kingly in its heritage of grace.  
Here is but beauty’s wisdom  
In which all trees are wise.  
Trees need not walk the earth 
For beauty or for bread;  
Beauty will come to them  
In the rainbow—  
The sunlight—  
And the lilac-haunted rain;
And bread will come to them  
As beauty came:  
In the rainbow—  
In the sunlight—  
In the rain.


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