Spring arrives both geographically and altitudinally. Down south in Oklahoma it’s already getting hot and the irises should be done flowering. In the northern woods, spring is taking its time. Go up another 1,000 feet in elevation and you still may find some snow. Edwin Way Teale wrote beautifully about this simple truth in his splendid four volume set which begins with North With The Spring, A Naturalist’s Record of a 17,000 Mile Journey With the North American Spring.
Here in the Harvard Woods, spring is vertical. It starts at the bottom and works its way up. Back in April the tiny flowers on the ground thrived in the leafless condition and the kind light of late winter. The smaller understory trees and shrubs have now had their turn- the past few weeks have been a riot of blooming dogwood and hobblebush. In the front yards along Main Street forsythia have been combining with quince, lilacs, apple trees and tulip magnolias for insane color combination awards.
Now the forest understory is leafed out and a the woods are in twilight; the light is filtered as though through emeralds and green stained glass. But look up above the smaller trees and you’ll see that the tallest ones have yet to leaf out. Many are flowering; long tassels droop from branch tips to be foraged by hungry warblers. The bare spaces make for easy viewing. In another week or two those birds will be foraging in privacy, but not today. From my second floor window I can see a red-eyed vireo peer and pick at the top of a tall, barely-leafed out ash (according to my Peterson Guide to Trees and Shrubs). Every few moments the bill opens and a song pours out. Mike says it sounds like someone conjugating French verbs. Those leaves are filling out fast. The way things are going, by this time next week I’ll have to be satisfied with just listening to the song.