Spring Deserves an Early Look
Spring, according to the calendar, is still a few weeks away.
It begins about 6 p.m. March 20.
Not to rush into the next season, but after a trying winter, a
few refreshing signs of what‚s to come can be encouraging.
Plants and wildlife never check the calendar to see when they
should begin returning, blooming, mating, growing and nesting, but
we associate many of these events as harbingers of spring.
Photoperiod is the calendar for many plants and animals.
Wisconsin’s first early bloomer is skunk cabbage, a member of the
arum family. This plant family also includes some common house
plants, dieffenbachia, philodendron and monstera.
Jack-in-the-pulpit, a common woodland plant is an arum, is also
related to skunk cabbage.
But it is skunk cabbage, a lowland, marshy herb that makes its own
heat to melt snow, ice and frozen ground in order to bloom at least
six weeks before spring’s calendar date.
Returning birds – namely robins and bluebirds – are also harbingers
of spring. But if we need a pick-me-up right now, we should be
able to go outside and find some robins or bluebirds that either
came back early, much before worms and bugs are around to provide
protein. Some of these birds stay all winter, too, but it’s still
great to see spring, so to speak, in the middle of winter.
These few robins and bluebirds can usually find what they need to
eat, mainly some left over wild fruits. Bird boxes, woodpiles and
brushy areas provide shelter during the night. But it’s water they
need most, so look for these two members of the Thrush family
around springs, on roofs where snow in melting, and near heated
Most of these natural things are false signs of spring, but they
are encouraging observations that suggest that if nature can
celebrate spring a few weeks early, we can, too.