Progress of the Seasons Journal: 9 – 11 May, 1832-1862.

Current Columbia County Phenological Events for 2015: Forget about Spring, Summer’s here. Wild Oats, Winged Polygala, Sassafras, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, a splay of Violets, Golden Alexander, Toothwort, numerous fruit trees… all in flower here in Columbia County.

Here is the historical phenology report from the ‘Progress of the Seasons Project’ for May 9-11. By the way, now that Summer’s arrived, we’ll go to a weekly posting starting next Monday.

headline2

Story Behind the Headlines:

morus alba

White Mulberry, complete with Silk Moth life cycle. from Weinmann, J.W., Phytanthoza iconographia, vol. 3: t. 736, fig. a (1742); on-line at plantillustration.org.

In the data from the last three days, Mulberry are beginning to bloom. These records come from Kingston, during the first half decade of the 1800s; but records from elsewhere also occur in the data. Mulberry, like Merino Sheep, was to subsequently fuel an agricultural craze. Mulberry is the favored food of the Asian Silkworm, which has long been harnessed to silk production in China. As we have already seen with several plants, East Asia and the East Cost share various elements of their floras including Morus, or Mulberry. However, the species are not identical and therein reportedly lay the craze.

The idea of North American silk production was apparently not new at the start of the second quarter of the 1800s. Silk Worms had been imported and attempts made but Silk Worms did not prosper on our native Mulberry (Red Mulberry), and its imported substitute (White Mulberry) seemed to get only a slight footing. And then….

According to one story, an aspiring Masschusetts silk producer planted numerous specimens of the newly-imported Morus multicaulis (or Multi-stemmed Mulberry). Disappointed by his silk making success, he subsequently decided to sell his trees and in order to do so he began vigorously hyping their excellent qualities for silk production. He was so successful that the market in such Mulberries skyrocketed, with prices per tree increasing 10-fold. While no one person may actually have been singularly responsible for the craze (it was promoted by state and federal governments for a decade or so), it does seem clear that it was the arborists rather than the aspiring silk makers who made money.

morus

Out native Red Mulberry. Notice, no evidence of SIlk Worm interest. from Michaux, F.A., The North American sylva, vol. 3: t. 116 (1819) [P. Bessa]; on-line at plantillustration.org

A more holistic explanation of the craze lay in the 1830s juxtaposition of Multi-stemmed Mulberry’s arrival and an abundance of free money (whose origins are beyond my meager economic understanding to fathom). But the result of that money was, like not so long ago, avid speculation in land, primarily in the opening western frontier. Not only land, but other possible investments were ravenously pursued. Silk making was one of them.

A variety of factors seemed to bring down the craze. For one, the land speculation bubble that had carried Mulberry’s along burst as Andrew Jackson tried to control the financial ‘Wild West”. In addition, there’s more to making silk than growing silk worms, and, it seems, quality of the threads was not always good. Furthermore, blight and hard winters destroyed most of the Morus multicaulis and confidence in its potential evaporated. Nearly overnight, mulberry orchards became nearly worthless.

While there seems to be few Multi-stemmed Mulberries remaining in the region, an earlier, sturdier (but less profusely growing) Asian species, the White Mulberry, can still be found here and there in the landscape. Interestingly, when a mulberry species is named in our historical records (most accounts refer only to “mulberry”), it is only our native Red Mulberry. “Red” and “white”, by the way, don’t refer to a consistent difference in the color of the fruit: the fruits of the White Mulberry can be whitish or purplish. Leaf texture is a better guide post, being rough in Red and smooth in White.

Mulberries now seem to be somewhat scarce in our landscape, but next time you see one, remember the dreams they once propped up.

REGIONAL SUMMARIES OF THE HISTORICAL RECORDS

COLUMBIA-DUTCHESS
Herbs: In 1852, Chatham reports Wind Flower (aka Rue Anemone) leafed and bloomed; blossomed Dandelions in Kinderhook in 1838. New Lebanon noted Celandine and Miterwort flowered in 1853. In 1855, Trout Lily observed in bloom in Spencertown.

horsechestnut

The non-native Horse Chestnut almost blooming in Old Chatham.

Woodies: In 1857, Fishkill Landing reports blooming Peach and Serviceberry, as well as leaved Wild Black Cherry, White Ash and Basswood; also noted in Fishkill was Shagbark Hickory in leaf in 1858. Shadbush bloomed in Kinderhook in 1837 and again in 1853 on this day. In 1852, Chatham noted leafing Horse Chestnut. New Lebanon reported blossoming Peach and Flowering Almond in 1851. Shadbush bloomed in Poughkeepsie in 1836.

Birds: Amenia notes arrived Bobolinks in 1849. Chimney Swallows reach Fishkill Landing in 1858. In 1837, Swallows appeared in Kinderhook and also in New Lebanon in 1852.

Agriculture: Fishkill landing reports blooming Pear in 1857 and flowering Apple in 1858. Hudson noted flowering Plum in 1835. Cherries bloomed in Kinderhook in two reports (1832 and 1837), they also noted bloomed Currant in 1835 and flowered Apple in 1846. In consecutive years, Apples bloomed in New Lebanon (1851 and 1852) and their Apples were reported blooming in 1852. In 1836, Poughkeepsie notes Plums blossoming. In Red Hook, Cherries bloomed in 1837 and 1841 and their Peaches had bloomed in 1835; reports of leafed Cherry and bloomed Currants in Spencertown (1856).

NYC
Herbs: Wild Columbine noted as blooming in five reports, Veronica and Dandelion bloomed in three. Two reports of Tulips and Saxifrage flowered. Also flowered were Yarrow, Buttercup, Chickweed, Toothwort, Fleabane, Wild Strawberry, Wild Geranium, Miterwort, May Apple and Violets.

grape

Grape with flowers in the works, its leaves were ‘sweating’ early on this warm morning.

Woodies: Leafing out Tree of Heaven noted in two reports; six of bloomed Horse Chestnut and a solo report of them showing leaves. Two reports of bloomed Shadbush. Also putting forth leaves in single reports were Spicebush, Elderberry, Red Honeysuckle, Black Locust, Shadbush, White Oak, Dogwood, Basswood and two reports for Honey Locust; bloomed Dogwood in nine reports, flowered Lilac in six. Paired reports of flowering White Oak; blooming Snowball Viburnum, Whortleberry, Yellow Rose and Magnolia also reported.

Birds: Four reports of first arrived Bobolinks, Martins appeared in three. Also arrived were Wrens, Goldfinches and Whippoorwills.

Other Critters: Three reports of first Butterflies.

Agriculture: A lone report of bloomed Peas. Seven reports of blossomed Apples, Pears, and Cherries. Two reports of planting Corn. Currants bloomed noted in six reports, ten of blossomed Plums and Peaches, nine of flowered Strawberry. Three reports of Quinces bloomed. Rhubarb noted as flowered and Cherries ripe; a single report for Apples in leaf and the blooming of Apricots.

fringed polygala

Fringed Polygala (or Gay Wings) now blooming in dry Columbai County forests.

CATSKILLS

Woodies:  In bloom were Lilacs, Elm, Dogwood and Basswood.

Agriculture: Flowering Mulberry in two reports; Peaches and Plums also flowered.

CAPITAL DISTRICT

Woodies: In leaf specimens included Shadbush, Choke Cherry and Elderberry.

Birds: Paired reports of arrived Whippoorwills and Bobolinks had appeared.

Agriculture: Currants bloomed noted in four reports; Apple was in flower and in leaf, Pear was also in leaf.

American and slippery

Elm seeds are starting to fall; Slippery Elm on the left; American on the right.

ADIRONDACKS
Herbs: In bloom were Windflowers, Marsh Marigold, Spring beauty, Daffodil, Trout Lily, Bloodroot, Two-Leaved Mitrewort, Marsh Blue Violet, Yellow Wood Violet and four reported flowered Dandelion. Wild Strawberry and St. John’s Wort had produced leaves.

Woodies: Basswood, Snowball, American Elm, Elderberry, Sweet Briar, Honeysuckle and Sugar Maple had leafed out. Bloomed was Shadbush in two reports.

Birds: Kingfisher, Martins and Barn Swallows appeared.

Agriculture: Plums, Gooseberry and Currants bloomed in two reports; a lone report of flowered Strawberry. In leaf were Raspberries, Pears, Currants and Gooseberry. Oats were sown and ploughing commenced in single reports.

LEATHERSTOCKING
Herbs: Bellwort, Goldthread and Miterwort reported in bloom. In two reports were flowered Marsh Marigold and Trillium.

Woodies: Reported Lilac, Willow and Shadbush blossomed.

Birds: Barn Swallows and Bobolinks first observed in two reports.

Agriculture: Nine reported blossoming of Plums, eight of Currants bloomed. Two reports for Gooseberries flowered and four for the bloomed Apple trees. Strawberry, Peach and Pear also bloomed.

golden alex

Golden Alexander flowering in an Old Chatham floodplain forest.

1000-ISLANDS
Herbs: Bloomed were Primerose, Two-Leaved Mitrewort, Hairy Woodrush, Sorrel, Toothwort, Sweetfern, Pussytoes, Marsh Marigold, Veronica, Trillium, Meadow Rue and Foam Flower. Two reports of Bellwort, Wild Strawberry, Violets and Dwarf Ginseng blossomed. Three reported flowered Dandelion.

Woodies: Two reports of flowered Red Maple and Shadbush. Downy Viburnum, American Elm, American Hazlenut and Pin Cherry also bloomed.

Birds: Eastern Kingbirds and Hummingbirds arrived. Three reports of first appeared Swallows.

Other Critters: First Snake seen.

Agriculture: Currants bloomed in three reports; blossomed Apples and Plums in two. Lone reports of flowered Strawberries and Peaches.

FINGER LAKES
Herbs: Blossomed were Spring Beauties, Wild Geranium, Tulips and Trillium. Windflower reported as showing leaves. Dandelion bloomed in three reports.

Woodies: A lone report of bloomed Red Maple, two for their leafing out. Hawthorn had showed leaves in three reports, Shadbush bloomed in four. Coupled reports of blossomed Lilac; also flowered were Locusts, Wild Black Cherry and Horse Chestnut.

Birds: Arrived Swallows in four reports. Martins appeared in two reports. Also first arrived were Bobolinks and Whippoorwills.

Agriculture: Nine reports of flowered Currants, eight for Apples in bloom and Seven for Cherries blossomed. Six reports of bloomed Plums. Flowered Peaches and Gooseberry in three reports; paired reports for bloomed Pear and Strawberry. In leaf were Currants and Apples, noted two reports. Also reported was leafed Pear and flowered Peas.

sassafras

Sassafras is getting underway hereabouts.

ROCHESTER
Herbs: During these days, Flowereing Baneberry in three reports. Seven reported blooming of Sedges. Shepherd’s Purse, Trillium, Lilac, Solomon’s Seal, Dandelion, Cudweed and Wild Columbine flowered; two reports of blooming Phlox; three of flowered Buttercup.

Woodies: In leaf were Red Maples, Sugar Maples, Spicebush, White Oak, Honeysuckle, Basswood and two reports for Elderberry. Solo reports of bloomed Elderberry, Black Oak, White Oak, Aspen and Hop Hornbeam; Three reported blooming of Shadbushes and two noted flowering of Blueberries.

Birds: Three reports of arrived Bobolinks. Wrens and Goldfinches also observed.

Agriculture: Noted Currants blooming in four reports, two for flowered Pear and three reported blooming Cherry. Also blossomed were Strawberries, Quinces, Flowering Almonds, Plums and Gooseberries. Cherry and Pear had put forth leaves.

NIAGARA FRONTIER
Herbs: A lone report of bloomed Dandelion.

Woodies: Shadbush flowered in coupled reports.

Birds: Bobolinks first appeared noted three reports.

Agriculture: Noted as bloomed were Apples and Cherries in three reports. Six reports of bloomed Peaches. Apricots and Strawberries blossomed in paired reports. Red Currants had produced leaves.

CHAUTAUQUA-ALLEGHANY
Herbs: Two reports of flowered Solomon’s Seal. Yellow Lady’s Slipper, Showy Orchis, Phlox, May Apple, Bloodroot, Tulip, Meadow Rue, Trillium and Bellwort had been noted as bloomed.

Woodies: Reported bloomed Sugar Maples and Shadbush.

Birds: In 1856, Swallows appeared in Angelica.

Agriculture: In bloom were Apples, Gooseberry, Pears and Blackberry; paired reports of bloomed Peaches.

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