Saturday, March 21, 2020

Springtime Secrets (Something to Do During the Pandemic)

I am posting this from the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in America. Many of us are down two only two major activities: working online, and taking walks. Like most universities and colleges, the one where I work is closed the rest of the spring semester, and students will complete their classes online. My wife and I take walks out away from other people, and watch all the wonders of nature, even when it is despoiled by human activity. This is what we have always done, but for some people, taking a nature walk might be a new activity. If you are one of those people, let me tell you some of the things you might notice.

Spring has been underway for some time in Oklahoma, where I live and work. But it has only recently been making itself obvious. Spring comes, but not all at once. The first thing to notice as you take your walk is that not all the trees open their buds at the same time. The elms opened their buds over a month ago, and they are now fully displaying their green seeds. Whole forests of elms are blushing a light green right now. This color is due to seeds, not leaves, which are only now beginning to emerge from their own buds.

Meanwhile, other tree species appear to still be dormant. In the photo below, the elms are green but the Kentucky coffee-tree (identifiable by its big seed pods) is still dormant.

Notice, then, that each kind of tree follows its own spring schedule.

The trees also display diversity within each species. The photo below shows two cottonwood trees. One is in full bloom (on the right, with clusters of little reddish flowers), the other is not. In this case, the tree in full bloom is a male tree, while the other one is female. Its greenish flowers will open up a little bit later. Just as male birds migrate before female birds, the male cottonwoods open their buds before the female cottonwoods. In trees, as in animals, the males compete with one another for access to the females even when, as in cottonwoods, it is completely without intelligence.

This is also the time of year that birds begin their social activities. In Oklahoma, mockingbirds and cardinals are already singing.

The final thing to notice is the garbage. Before the leaves open and the grass grows, thousands of pieces of garbage are visible all around the “natural” areas of Tulsa. (We have counted some of them; I do not exaggerate.) March is the best time of the year to see one of the ugly impacts that humans have upon the natural world.

Take a walk. It doesn’t cost anything, and it doesn’t expose you to viruses. You don’t need to download a movie. The natural world around you has plenty to see.

No comments:

Post a Comment