Yesterday I found these buds about to burst in Schenley Park.
Yellow buckeyes (Aesculus flava) are one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring, unfurling their dramatic palmate leaves. They’re such a welcome splash of green that I photograph them nearly every year. This is the first time I noticed the bud at this stage. I didn’t expect it to be red.
Over the years my buckeye photographs have documented the vagaries of spring in Schenley Park. In cooler years — such as 2015 — the buds weren’t this far along in mid-April. Here’s a closed bud on 15 April 2015.
In hot years — such as 2012 — the buds opened weeks ahead of schedule. This buckeye was completely leafed on 19 March 2012.
This year appears to be a “normal” spring … whatever that means these days.
Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), 28 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)
Garlic mustard and goutweed leaves, 28 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)
Early blooming coltsfoot, 17 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)
Hairy bittercress, purple dead nettle and garlic mustard leaves, 28 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)
Forsythia beginning to bloom, 28 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)
Honeysuckle leaves, 28 March 2019 (photo by Kate St. John)
Spring is coming at a good pace this year. Unlike hot years, such as March 2012, there’s time to appreciate each new leaf and flower before the next set appears.
My photos above show a selection of leaves and flowers at Schenley Park this past week. Most were taken on March 28 but the real surprise was coltsfoot blooming on St. Patrick’s Day. That flower hid for ten days and appeared again last week.
Unfortunately, all of these plants are alien and some are invasive. Their ability to spring ahead of the local plants gives them an advantage all year long.
Click here for that same honeysuckle branch, bud-to-leaves on March 11, 16.
Last week I found fluffy drifts on the sidewalks in my neighborhood. They’re the airborne seeds of London plane trees (Platanus × acerifolia), planted in Pittsburgh in the late 1800s because they’re tolerant of air pollution.
Weeping willows (Salix babylonica) are popular landscape trees that were brought here from Asia. They’re easy to notice at this time of year because their drooping stems turn yellow in very early spring. From a distance you see a splash of yellow.
Imported species, especially those from Europe, grew up in a steady climate with few spring surprises so they’re quick to bloom in the spring and late to drop their leaves in autumn.
Meanwhile our native trees are still brown, conservative about producing tender shoots because they know that volatile spring weather can bring a killing frost in April.
Are you tired of winter? Watch for the weeping willow’s hint of spring.
Every year I record the date when most of the trees are bare on my favorite hillside in Schenley Park — the hill at the end of the Greenfield Bridge.
In 2008 the leaves were gone by 2 November. In 2012 Hurricane Sandy stripped them from the trees by 4 November.
Last year the changes happened much later. In 2017, the leaves were still green in late October and more than half were still on the trees on 27 November. Here’s a 2017 slideshow of autumn trees on that hillside.
26 October 2017: Lots of green at the end of October 2017.
4 Nov 2017: More than half of the trees have changed color -- mostly yellow.
12 Nov 2017: About 1/4 of the trees are bare. Some are still green, others are russet.
19 Nov 2017: Lots of ball-tree shapes on the hillside. About 1/4 of the trees are bare
27 Nov 2017: About half the trees are bare. Oak leaves are still hanging on.
This year is similar to last so I wonder … When will most of the trees be bare? November 15? 20? 30? Later?
Let me know how the trees look where you live and vote for the date “When Most of the Trees Will Be Bare” by leaving a comment below.
HINT! Two factors that affect leaf loss on this hillside: (1) More than half of the trees are oaks; oaks drop their leaves later than maples. (2) This city location is warmer than surrounding counties.