I’ve noticed something disturbing when I look at our bush.
While the poplar trees are flushing with yellow-green beginnings of spring leaf, the pine trees are, in many patches, turning brown. What gives?
It seems that nature is a tad confused. Spring came early, or what we at first believed was spring.
Certainly the signs were there – warm temperatures in March, the snow melting quickly but into the ground and not running off thanks to very little frost in the ground, the ground drying very nicely.
Then came April with a strange mix of rain and cold. Worst of all, we had a couple of killer frosts. ere we are in May and the days have been wet with cold winds.
The grass is certainly growing but to get it cut requires strategic planning, almost some kind of well-planned, covert mission, a hit-and-run, get-in-quickly-and-get-the-job-done before the next shower kind of thing.
So, what is happening?
I’ve been asking around. It appears that the unusual, unaccustomed warmth of March signalled to the pine trees that they could wakey-wakey from their sleep and get them juices flowing, which they did.
The flowing juices sent another signal to begin new needle growth. All systems go.
Then April arrived and with it, frost – killer frost that killed all that new growth.
Slowly, the needles have been turning brown. Not all spruce, balsam, and pine have been affected. I look out of my picture window to observe the trees to the south and see stands unaffected by this sorry turn of events; and right beside them are swaths of browning conifers.
Meanwhile, the poplars are leafing in patches with other groups where nothing seems to be happening. Perhaps I’m forgetting that leafing doesn’t occur all at once, that it occurs at different times for these trees.
Perhaps it is still too soon to tell. As I recall, the birch leaf later than the poplar. When the birch sap rises, the branches take on a reddy-purple colour.
Many has been the time that as I am driving at this time of year when the flora is waking up, that colour on the birch helps me distinguish between poplar and birch until the leaves appear.
This glitch of nature has affected more than just Northwestern Ontario. In the south of the province I heard on CBC Radio that fruit farmers have been hit, especially those farms inland away from the lakes.
Apparently fruit growers closer to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie may have been spared the killer frosts.
Same thing happened: early warmth, juices start flowing, new growth then nailed by later killer frosts.
Apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes, and cherries will be in shorter supply come this summer. Expect the prices to sore.
Back here in Northwestern Ontario, does this freak of nature spell doom for the forest? No, say the experts.
This warm-then-freeze event has happened before and the trees survived.
The foresters are betting that the mature trees affected will survive to slush green needles again.
The very young tree-lings, the saplings, however, probably won’t survive.
In the bush, the forest floor can be re-seeded next year.
But for tree nurseries growing and selling seedlings for re-planting, if the seedlings are outdoors, unfortunately for the farmers, probable crop failure.
I’ve been told that we’ve needed that rain. But I like to work outside on sunny days – who doesn’t?
I just wish we could have a week of warm and dry so that I could get some much-needed work done like mowing the grass, scraping the horse paddocks of their winter leavings, and getting those fence post holes drilled.
This clammy English climate can leave now!
You can contact Rural Roots by e-mail: email@example.com or by writing to Rural Roots, P. O. Box 402, South Gillies, Ont. P0T 2V0.
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