By George Polk
We had such a warm winter and such a cool spring. Remember summer does not start until the summer solstice, June 21st. Spring is more than just the pretty wildflowers. This is the sexiest time of the year, pollen is flying all over the place. New seeds are being pollinated in preparation for the growing season.
I pay a lot of attention to the early ephemerals and it is only when my eyes start to water and the nose to run that I am really aware that they are only the tip of the spring orgy of reproduction.
Walking through the woods the maples are on fire with their red gowns morphing into flying winged seeds, the oaks are more modest in their tan and brown. Giving a more sober thought is the red bud. The show off of the woods now is the dogwood, gleaming through the branches.
A small tree looking more like a wildflower is blooming now. Its blossom resembles a Bloodroot with white petals hanging loosely. It is an early harbinger of spring. John Landers told me its name, Service Berry came from it being used to decorate churches at their spring service. The local pronunciation is Sarvis tree. I looked it up in my tree book and found out it was actually a June Berry, or Shadbush tree. The blossoms will produce small red berries much prized by birds and squirrels. These berries also make a very good pie.
Most trees, have both male and female flowers, making pollination almost automatic. All an insect has to do is walk across the flower. The wind will also do the job. Others, like the persimmon, have separate sexes. The male persimmon tree sports a neat bouquet of blooms hanging off the ends of the branches while the female tree has her fertile blooms tucked tightly along her limbs.
Where do all those butterflies and bees come from? The spring orgy of blooms and blossom must have a cast of insects to consummate the rites of spring. Along with the butterflies, an army of flies, bees and beetles’ alarm clocks go off and they struggle out of their winter hidey holes and go to work. The time is short and every effort must be made to insure pollination of this years seed crop. The pollinators, in turn, will visit many different flowers. Some as many as twenty or thirty. Each bee or bug will choose a favorite flower and become an expert in getting in and out.
The spring is so important to nature that she unleashes an over abundance of insects. One plant may be pollinated by as many as twenty different insects. Our contemporary trees and flowers could not have evolved without the insects and the insects could not survive without the nourishment of the flowers. Do the bees realize that they are doing the flowers a favor by robbing them of their nectar?
Do we realize the importance of these pesky critters buzzing around us on some of our first nice days. We depend on them for flower and food crops too and if they some times interfere with our cash crops we need to be careful in our zeal to produce more corn that we do not loose the process in the bargain. The Orchard keepers next to the cornfield found out that too much poison also depleted their bees which pollinated their fruit.
For more information see Peterson Field Guide,” Eastern Forests”, John C.Kricher/Gordon Morrison.