Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Feeling the heat #phenology

Butterfly weed along nearby sunny roadsides has been in bloom now for three weeks or a month. The plant in front of the house, which gets limited sunshine, is just starting to bud. Wild bergamot in open, sun-filled fields has had many flowered plants for the past week or two. those growing near our butterfly weed are just coming into flower now. What accounts for the differences?

butterfly weed flower buds
butterfly weed flower buds
Photo by J. Harrington

The National Phenology Network notes the effects of temperatures, expressed as Growing Degree Days. I suspect, based on limited and unscientific anecdotal observations, that GDDs are, at least in some cases, necessary but not sufficient. There's limited likelihood that there's a significant difference in cumulative GDDs between our front garden and the nearby roadsides and fields that have similar plants blooming weeks earlier. They're all within two to twenty miles or so of each other. There is a significant difference in the amount of sunshine available to each of the different locales we're writing about. Our front garden is heavily shaded. The roadsides and fields aren't. They're fully exposed to the sun for many hours a day. Is this what folks refer to as "microclimate" differences? I'm not sure.

bergamot starting to bloom in front garden
bergamot starting to bloom in front garden
Photo by J. Harrington

What I am reasonably sure of is that the differences in blooming times will make nectar and pollen available to some pollinators as they move through the area. I hope that "that's a good thing," because it's frustrating to be among the latest to bloom. Ask any teenager.

The Metier of Blossoming


Denise Levertov, 1923 - 1997


Fully occupied with growing—that’s
the amaryllis. Growing especially
at night: it would take
only a bit more patience than I’ve got
to sit keeping watch with it till daylight;
the naked eye could register every hour’s
increase in height. Like a child against a barn door,
proudly topping each year’s achievement,
steadily up
goes each green stem, smooth, matte,
traces of reddish purple at the base, and almost
imperceptible vertical ridges
running the length of them:
Two robust stems from each bulb,
sometimes with sturdy leaves for company,
elegant sweeps of blade with rounded points.
Aloft, the gravid buds, shiny with fullness.

One morning—and so soon!—the first flower
has opened when you wake. Or you catch it poised
in a single, brief
moment of hesitation.
Next day, another,
shy at first like a foal,
even a third, a fourth,
carried triumphantly at the summit
of those strong columns, and each
a Juno, calm in brilliance,
a maiden giantess in modest splendor.
If humans could be
that intensely whole, undistracted, unhurried,
swift from sheer
unswerving impetus! If we could blossom
out of ourselves, giving
nothing imperfect, withholding nothing!


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