Phenology Journal: Litany of the First Week in Middle Spring

Middle spring invites an endless litany of events, everything connected through coincidence:

Just as skunk cabbage starts to produce its foliage, the first major wave of wildflowers comes into bloom: inflorescence of bloodroot, Dutchman’s britches, twinleaf, toothwort and Virginia bluebells joining the hepatica, spring beauties, lesser celandine and violet cress of March.

Plums and pears, red quinces, service berries, crab apples, and cherries blossom. Redbuds branches turn violet as their buds stretch and crack. Pastures and winter wheat shine with the brightest green of the year. No-till fields are violet with henbit.

Watercress blooms in quiet pools and backwaters. New tulips open. Violets and small-flowered buttercups appear in the lawn. Shoots of Japanese knotweed, hosta, phlox and lupine emerge beside the daffodils and grape hyacinths, scilla, puschkinias and wind flowers still in bloom. Patches of dandelions foretell the great dandelion bloom of middle spring’s second and third weeks

Toad trillium, early meadow rue and May apples push up out of the ground. Cowslip and ragwort bud in the swamps. Some sweet rockets and money plants are poised to send out their flower stalks. Touch-me-not sprouts have four leaves – a few even have six. Garden clematis tendril climb their trellises.

Bleeding hearts and poison hemlock are bushy and more than a foot tall. Rhubarb leaves are bigger than a big man’s hand; some of its fruit has succumbed to pie. Nettles and leafcup are six to eight inches tall, Asiatic lilies and columbine three to five inches, veronica and coneflower leaves an inch or two, scarlet peony stalks a foot an a half. Velvety wild ginger unfolds. September’s beggarticks sprout, and the grass is long enough to cut.

Robins and cardinals call almost an hour before sunrise. Goldfinches have more than half their summer color. Small azure butterflies and white cabbage butterflies fly out for nectar. Japanese beetle grubs move to the surface of the ground to feed. Mosquitoes, born in last month’s warmth, seek you as you weed the garden.

In ponds and brooks, rushes and purple loosestrife, water lilies and pickerel plants rise from the shallows. Water striders, small diving water beetles pursue their prey. Grass snakes wait for flies and beetles in the sun. Toads cry out on milder evenings: John reported on Easter that his toads were in full song: “They had a false start the last couple of weeks,” he said, “but they’re serious right now; they’re committed to it.”

All of these events of litany and so many more take place both in concert and in syncopated sequence. They fashion a running narrative with interdependent threads of story, sharing as well as making this precise space and time, creating a web of beauty and utility into which we fit as and if we choose.



  1. Barbara

    I would never know or even guess that so much could be going on in nature unless I read your post. How well you describe it as a “litany.” How could one be alone in one’s natural habitat if one has a sense of being surrounded by all this movement and development? How “precise” the last paragraph, yet how much freedom it allows. Hurrah, Bill. And Happy Easter Monday.

  2. Bill Felker (Post author)

    Thanks, Barbara – Happily, we are all going on in nature!


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *