Phenology Daybook: April 18, 2020

April 18th

The 108th Day of the Year

Then came the lovely spring,

With a rush of blossoms and music

Filling the earth with blossoms

And the air with melodies vernal

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunrise/set: 5:53/7:16

Day’s Length: 13 hours 23 minutes

Average High/Low: 63/42

Average Temperature: 52

Record High: 88 – 1896

Record Low: 25 – 1983


    Today, for the first time since October 14th, there is a ten to fifteen percent chance of a high in the 80s. Seventies come five percent of the time, 60s fifty percent of the time, 50s twenty percent, 40s five to ten percent, 30s five percent. The sun shines seven days in ten, rain comes four in ten, snow two in ten. Frost burns tender plants one morning out of three (the last time this spring that odds are so strong for freezing temperatures).

Natural Calendar

The third week of a typical Middle Spring brings Bumblebee Season and Carpenter Bee Season, Great Egret Migrating Season (through southwestern Ohio), Asparagus Cutting Season, Crab Apple, Cherry, Dogwood, and Redbud Season.  It’s Lawn Mowing Season, Buckeye Leafing Season, the Great Dandelion Bloom Season, Winter Cress and Butterweed in the Pasture Season, and the best of Late Middle Spring Flower Season with watercress and ragwort blooming in the wetlands, thyme-leafed speedwell in the lawn, early meadow rue, rue anemone, wild geranium, large-flowered trillium and columbine all filling the Glen. In the parks, Pink Magnolia Season replaces White Star Magnolia Season. Buttercup Season and Money Plant Season complement Snowball Viburnum Season and Bridal Wreath Spirea Season.

The Stars

This week, the Big Dipper comes deep into the sky overhead; its pointers (the two outside stars of the dipper) are positioned almost exactly north-south after dark, marking the center of Middle Spring. Now Cepheus and Cassiopeia, which were nearly directly above the Northern Hemisphere in early winter, have moved to the far side of Polaris along the northern horizon. Scorpio and Sagittarius share the southern sky when the robins first sing in the morning.


1982: Chinese crab apple blooming.

1985: Redbud, watercress, miterwort all blooming. Cattail leaves are two feet tall. Cactus cress is a foot and a half, budding. Ash leaves have started outside my window. Red and black ladybugs seen at Wilberforce and Yellow Springs.

1986: Cardinal sings at 5:00 a.m. Cascades: First bellwort, last Dutchman’s britches. Meadow rue, large-flowered trillium, miterwort, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and rue anemone are in full bloom. First columbine, winter cress, wood betony. Small tadpoles in the backwaters. Wild geranium and common fleabane budding, hepatica fading. Squirrels chasing each other in the trees. Off year for garlic mustard, very few plants this year; they seem to go in cycles:  the even years are the lean years, the odd are plentiful ones. Forsythia flowers completely gone at home, lawn grass going to seed in spots. Redbuds declining.

1987: Buds on daisies and bleeding hearts. Small-flowered buttercups have been out for a week along the front walk. Pines have put out new growth. Tulips early full bloom in town. Rhubarb big enough for one pie. Box elders leafing, all the maples flowering, hops moving into the honeysuckles. Forsythia and pussy willow leaves are almost an inch long.

1989: Very first cherry blossoms in the yard.

1991: This is the week Yellow Springs gets out of hand. Through Early Spring, I could track the movement of time by measuring daffodil foliage and recording the progress of crocus, pussy willows, aconite, and snowdrops. There were only a few leaves to check, only a few wild flowers were in bloom. Now everything is happening at once. In the next thirty days, every kind of plant and tree, something like a thousand species, will sprout new leaves or flower. I want to join them, to be like them, to stand for them, to have them stand for me, to be part of them, have them be part of me. I want them to have meaning. I want to know that I have meaning.

1992: First cherry flowers in the yard. Hosta are one to two inches, first bleeding heart flowers, peonies are knee high.

1993: First strawberry blossoms. Astilbes and peonies are unraveling, stems thickening. Phlox now bushy and about four to five inches. Most of the tulips budding. Daylilies up to a foot tall, Asiatic lilies strong at half a foot. First asparagus comes through the straw. Three blue jays courting in the garden box elder, bobbing up and down, singing. Mountain maple blooms at Antioch School.

1994: The first bumblebee was out yesterday, the first wood tick picked up in South Glen today. (John reported them in northern Minnesota a week ago – along with frogs croaking.) The season accelerating: apple tree leafing, pears near full bloom in Xenia, starting to open here, the first daffodils fading, bleeding hearts have hearts, ferns are protruding in the Glen and in the yard, rhubarb is long enough to cut for pie, quince is leafing, maples flowering in front of the house and across the street, mid- season tulips starting, some roses with new shoots.

1998: Purple loosestrife in the pond is seven inches high. Monarda about the same height in the east garden. Great mullein has nine-inch leaves, the plant a foot tall. Virginia creeper leaves one half to fully developed, depending on the exposure. Roses well leafed, maybe a third of summer size.

1999: In Madison, Wisconsin, bloodroot time is almost past, says Maggie. Here in Yellow Springs, one purple lilac seen in bloom in the south side of town. Ragwort, phlox, creeping phlox opened last week. First bellwort today.

2000: Cool and rainy, gray this morning. I look out the back door: the apple tree is white and pink with all its flowers. In the pond, a few stalks of the loosestrife is at eight or nine inches, a little ahead of 1998; the rest of the stalks are a little behind. Small-flowered dogwood near the Mills Lawn park is open.

2001: For me, the lush blooming and leafing of the land in Middle Spring is accompanied by a sense of fulfillment and relief after the gray of winter. Little by little, I gather more confidence and dare to hope. The flowers become a kind of visible troth, a promise quieting my fear that winter will never leave.

But a sharp cold spell often strikes in mid to late April, burning back new growth, and the month can close without a flowering tree, with perennials black from frost. And so the warmest springs can also bring a feeling of suspense, a suspicion that the new season could be too good to be true.

I don’t feel the same uneasiness at the approach of autumn. Instead of disquiet, I feel disbelief. It is not possible, my body tells me, that summer could disappear and that the leaves might come down. On the other hand, like the residue of a night’s dreams that pushes against my consciousness, the uneasiness about an April or early May freeze may linger as vague anxiety, sometimes metastasizing, growing far out of proportion and blending with other unrelated anxieties and fears.

Then I get disgusted for letting myself feel like this. After all, weather is changeable. Why take seriously an abortion of April? Isn’t there enough to worry about? Things balance out. They always do.

Still, the suspicion that everything will suddenly and unfairly fall apart can linger until the first heat wave finally convinces me that all is well. It takes tall rhubarb and sweet strawberries; I need raspberries and blackberries setting fruit, peonies, iris, lupines, poppies, and all the clovers in bloom to cure the neurosis and settle me into mindless denial: Summer will never end.

2002: In Columbus: dogwoods, snowball viburnum, azaleas, and even lilacs in bloom. Silver olive bushes along the highway three-fourths leafed.

2003: Apples close to full bloom now, and small-flowered dogwoods open throughout town. At Mrs. Lawson’s, sudden bloom (after decades of being mowed back) of bright yellow tulips with six pointed petals, each flower the size of a trout lily.

2004: The new rose-red tulips in the east garden are in full bloom today, the deep red buds of the new crabapple above them are soft and ready to open. I cleaned off the elephant ear bulbs this evening, many of the them had sprouted quite a while ago. Steven’s allergies suddenly started today.

2005: This is the first day redbuds and crabs are in full bloom in town, and the tree line flushed and filling in. Lil’s maple and the Danielsons’ maple are full of yellow green flowers. The ashes are all leafing, foliage maybe a fourth of full size. Tree of heaven leaves are starting. The first azaleas are open in Cedarville and in front of our house here. A cardinal sang today at 4:55, another at 5:10, before the full cardinal song started at 5:25.

2006: Lilacs fully budded in the alley and at home. In the east garden, the small pink azalea is opening, creating a palate of pastels with the violets and the purple dead nettle. The viburnum in the north garden is starting to bloom, forsythia leaves outnumber its flowers, and buds have formed on a few honeysuckles. Lil’s maple and the Danielson’s maple are in bloom. Celandine is flowering at the side of the house.

2007: At Bryan Park, spring beauties in full bloom throughout the wide expanses of grass. Bluebells, toad trillium, toothwort, anemones, meadow rue all flowering. Along High Street, a few periwinkles and grape hyacinths are still in bloom. Only the small white daffodils are open in our yard. In the alley, I noticed that all the willow leaves had been destroyed by the frost. Mateo’s apple tree is flowering, and one red-flowered crab apple is opening along Dayton Street.

2008: An earthquake struck this morning at about 5:40. Very little damage except at the center in southern Illinois. The very first serviceberry flowers are opening along Dayton Street. One of our bluebells is starting – which means that probably all of the Glen’s bluebells are blooming. More and more hostas and lilies are pushing up, viburnums and hydrangeas leafing out. Comfrey leaves, very late this year, are about four inches long. Purple coneflowers and monardas are bushy and strong, maybe two inches high. By nightfall, all the serviceberries were in full bloom. Petalfall increasing on the star magnolias. Grackles more prominent than robins at dusk.

2009: Tulips and bleeding hearts are in full bloom around the village, as are our tulips – but our bleeding hearts still do not have hearts. Purple coneflower foliage is about two to three inches high. The first lilac seen in bloom downtown. Redbuds are showing considerable color. Dandelions full bloom along Elm Street. Creeping phlox is open at Peggy’s and in other yards, too. In the afternoon, Jeanie watched a pileated woodpecker land on our back birdfeeder and search all its openings for seeds, and later in the afternoon, we saw a flock of cedar waxwings come to the south edge of the property. A wisteria and two blueberry bushes planted this evening. And transplanted a clematis, which the wisteria replaced. Jeanie put in a row of mesclun in the raised bed. Bats seen in the evening.

2010: From Judy in Goshen, Indiana: “We don’t have the variety of wildflowers that you are blessed with in Ohio.  However, over the weekend (the 18th) we saw (in a venue different from last week):  globeflower, white violets, moneywort, budding early meadow rue, marsh marigold, spring beauty, trilliums, and some kind of what looked like nightshade.  Garlic mustard is abundant in the vacant lot at the end of our street..”

2011: Strong cardinals and song sparrows and house sparrows through the alley. A pair of starlings in Judy’s lawn. Mrs. Lawson’s yellow tulips are opening, only two left from years ago. The buds on Rachel’s ginkgo tree have become minute fourth-inch leaves. Grackles and finches and sparrows at the feeders. First two cabbage butterflies mating in the yard this afternoon.

2012: The first iris are in bloom along the south side of the house at the corner of Limestone and Stafford. Our iris our budded, as are many others along the street. The Stafford Street buckeye has huge flower stalks with fat buds. Dogwoods hold throughout my walk. Bluebells almost gone in the south flower bed. In the garden, the rhubarb is definitely ready for pie, and the raspberries are budding.  Many hostas are almost full-size. At 10:15 this morning: the first zebra swallowtail of the year! Then, a fritillary around noon. Walking at the Oakes Quarry Park, part of the Beavercreek Wetlands preserve, I made the following inventory: sulphurs, metalmarks, blues, cabbage whites, a black swallowtail and a white spotted skipper (and another skipper seen at home when I got back); honeysuckles, pink and white, and silver olives in full bloom; winter cress, dead nettle, dandelions, fleabane, white-flowered wild strawberry all in flower; other plants not blooming: sweet clover, large-leafed thistles, asters, multiflora roses, vetch, plantain, teasel, mint, hemlock, wingstem, dock, cattails, yarrow, great mullein; trees: sliver maple, sycamore, water willow, black walnut, and dozens of two-to-three-foot poplars filling the flats (What will they make this rocky landscape look like in twenty or thirty years?), mulberry, Chinese elm, panicled dogwoods; minnows seen in one pool, lazy, fearless tadpoles in another; redwings, killdeer, field sparrows, and a red-bellied woodpecker calling, nesting ducks and geese;  dragon flies mating, spitbugs on a few stems. Temperature about 65 degrees, sky hazy. A soft wind was blowing throughout my walk, and the air was sweet with honeysuckle. The quarry was surrounded by higher ground, filled with high trees just starting to leaf out.

2013: High in the 80s today, strong southwest wind, and I went to the Mill, walked along the river with Bella: Grasses so green, river high, muddy, flowing hard: Red-bellied woodpecker, cardinals, pileated woodpecker calling, buzzards swooping, American toads screaming their mating calls in the backwater, chickweed carpet blooming across all the woods floor, honeysuckle leaves an inch long, forming their dense summer wall, winter cress budded, bloodroot gone, new wild ginger foliage, toothwort and spring beauties and late Dutchman’s britches and wild phlox and meadow rue and ragwort (most ragwort tall and budded) and violets (white and purple) and bluebells and violet cress and toad  trillium and small-flowered buttercup and swamp buttercup, one trillium grandiflorum, and box elder trees in bloom, winter cress and Jack-in-the-pulpit budded. At home the first wild strawberry flowered, first star of Bethlehem bud found. The garden is starting to fill with quack grass, deadnettle, catchweed, too many violets.

2014: North Glen: Dutchman’s britches and many toothworts throughout, bellwort six inches, rue anemone and meadow rue in bloom. The skunk cabbage has huge, fat leaves, maybe a foot high, at least half that wide. In the yard at home, ten astilbe planted, several lilies transplanted, the ground still soft. Peonies unraveled, knee high. Ramps lanky just like in the Glen.

2015: Gethsemani: Waiting for birds from 4:00 a.m.  Mostly clear above me, fog all round the hills, cool in the 50s, no wind, Scorpio in the south. At first only roosters across the countryside. One robin whinny at 4:38, and the first  cardinal at 4:41, much later than in some years past.

2016: Gethsemani: Curious that I heard a robin whinny at exactly 4:38 this morning before I left for Yellow Springs.

2017: Spain: Tat and and I climbed from Castelo about a thousand feet to the San Jose albergue in Negreira, Middle Spring continues to retreat, Late Spring approaching, one mock orange flower emerging,  most of the canopy and shrubbery well leafed, snowball bushes full of white clusters, one purple loosestrife, bridal wreath rusting, wisteria starting to break down, yellow thorn bushes less frequent and browning, many yellow daisies, and the tall pea- flowered yellow bushes almost tree size (ginestra-like). Some constants: borage, buttercups, red and white clovers. One section of a roadside had dozens of Japanese iris, buds golden, ready to bloom.

2018: The day before a weekend trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York: Peach trees are in full bloom now, as are the weeping cherries, early pears, daffodils, late scillas and glory of the snow, lungwort, periwinkle, primrose, red quince, forsythia, chickweed. The honeysuckles are greening along Dayton Street now, lilacs in the back yard. The serviceberry trees in front of Don’s house are getting ready to open. Several star magnolias have been browned with frost, one pink magnolia starting to bloom. Tulips in their first week.

2019: A walk on a windy, warm and humid afternoon with my border collie, Ranger, at Agraria, the experimental farm west of town: The predominant event there was the steady, screaming mating calls of the American toads along the stream that curls through the honeysuckles. The landscape itself was relatively barren, having been chemically farmed until the last few years.

The grass was green and a field of red clover, planted to help renew the soil, was lush and swayed in the south wind. But there was little diversity in the other growth. Dandelions, purple deadnettle, ground ivy (creeping Charley), bittercress and violets were the only obvious wildflowers. Foliage of dock, Queen Anne’s lace, Canadian thistle, plantain, small-flowered aster, goldenrod, burdock and hemlock grew in scattered clumps. I saw a number of crowfoot buttercup plants in bloom, a small area of “baby blue eyes” (a tiny Veronica polita or field speedwell), patches of chickweed, occasional tangles of catchweed, scattered garlic mustard plants, stalks climbing.

Along the edge of the fields: wintercress just starting to bloom. Honeysuckles were strong and leafing, just a few wild multiflora roses and black raspberry plants leafing a little. At one edge of the stream, I found a handful of touch-me-not sprouts with four petals. One azure butterfly and half a dozen cabbage whites flew by me in the open field. One shy red admiral had just emerged in the woods along the water, fluttered from fallen log to fallen log, almost tame.

But the afternoon clearly belonged to the singing toads, the males screeching in high-pitched crescendo, phrases of up to half a minute that rose and fell, overlapping, competing, blending near the honeysuckle groves that lined the narrow stream. The current Agraria farmland, still lacking in floral diversity, is apparently a nurturing one for these toads, and their presence is testament to a certain health and to stability of habitat and of food in the form of worms and small insects.

This evening, the warmth turned to chill and rain, and all the petals came down from Don’t serviceberry trees, but the first lilac buds opened near the pond.

2020: On a short wall in the Vale, a small community south of Yellow Springs, Jill an I found full-blooming bluebells, garlic mustard and yellow trout lilies. Forsythia was leafing in town, star magnolias and most pink magnolias down..

All our cells are affected by the sun and moon; every time the sun goes down they change, and again at dawn. By daylight the cells assert themselves, at night they are more receptive to external forces.

Taisen Deshimaru

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