Spring is here! Even at a time when activities are restricted, observing nature in our neighborhood or backyard can provide respite and comfort in an otherwise confusing world. Spring is the perfect season to begin observing nature and its rhythms as plants come out of dormancy to tack advantage of longer days and increasing temperatures.
As a family, take a walk through the neighborhood looking for signs of spring such as flowers that are blooming now that the warmer weather is here.
Even young children can be engaged in looking for signs of spring. Prompt youngsters to look for various colors and shapes on their walk. Older children can begin to look at differences over time. Parents and care givers can ask youngsters to observe differences such as a closed bud on one day which becomes an open blossom on the next. Prompt them with questions. How long do blooms last on different trees? Once the flowers shrivel and fall, can they look for signs of fruits and seeds? Do different trees flower at different times?
As you walk through the neighborhood notice the trees that are in bloom. In late March, the tiny bright red flowers of Acer rubrum (Red Maple) can be seen high in the trees. On warm sunny days, pollinators, especially bees looking for nectar, can be seen foraging on these blooms. Several species of Prunus (Cherry) are in flower, and Magnolia sp. (Magnolia) flower buds are about to burst. Many of these trees bloom early, before their leaves unfurl, putting their stored energy into making flowers, before making leaves and beginning their annual growth. Shrubs such as Forsythia, with their bright yellow petals, are a common sight at this time. Many corms and bulbs, such as cultivars of Crocus sp. (Crocuses) and Galanthus sp. (Snowdrops), are also on display in March. These plants emerge in early spring to absorb sunlight, and bloom early, before overstory shrubs and trees leaf out, and shade them out.
Are you looking for help identifying plants on your walk? PlantSnap can help. This app, endorsed by the American Public Gardens Association, can help. Simply download the app on your phone, and take a picture of the plants you encounter; the app will generate a list of species and create a match. https://www.plantsnap.com/