Nature Notes

Slippery, Sunny……Spring?

By Greg Lecker

The “Steel Roots” forms of artist Steve Tobin’s “Romeo and Juliet” sculpture at the Arboretum entry mirror the discarded limbs of pruned Ginkgo and Oak trees at the entry to Three Mile Drive.  Late winter is an excellent time for such chores.   It’s too cold and dry for disease pathogens to invade fresh cuts.  In addition, the stored energy of the woody starchy mass will soon be converted to spring’s flush of growth that will seal the wounds.

"Romeo & Juliet" Steel Roots
“Romeo & Juliet” Steel Roots

Signs of approaching spring are visible if one searches carefully.  Bare patches of soil are appearing under a dense evergreen tree here.  I peer through frost etched panes of the greenhouse at the Home Demonstration Garden; and I spy a row of watering cans hanging, awaiting use in a month or two or three.

The “chu-urrr – chu-urr” of a Red Bellied Woodpecker cheers me as I enter the Arboretum Sugarbush.  I’m heartened also by the sight of the maple sap collection in action, as evidenced by blue straps around trunks connected by tubing.  Another sign is the swelling of Silver Maple and Box Elder buds that has lately become visible.  Speaking of which, I am astonished by the twig tips on a Horse Chestnut tree.  My, what big buds you have!

Horse Chestnut Buds
Horse Chestnut Buds

The continued freeze-thaw cycles and overnight sleet have left a crust that allows me to walk gingerly over the snow berm next to the roadway to admire the shiny bark of Prunus maackii – Amur Chokecherry.   The dark bark of trees absorbs the sun’s heat and shares it with the surrounding area to carve depressions encircling the flare of the trunks.


Water freezes again overnight on pine trees forming “needle-sicles”.  Though daytime temperatures remain stubbornly only in the mid- to upper-twenties, water is dripping by the time the mid-day sun shows its strength in the tug-of-war between Mother Nature and Old Man Winter.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.






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