Current Columbia County Phenological Events for 2015:
Oven Birds settling down in Greenport Conservation Area. Rue Anemone flowering abundantly. Oriole in New Lebanon. Shadbush starting to flower in our hedges. Hobblebush flowering just across the border in Mt. Washington, MA. And this just in – first Bobolinks arrive in Harlemville.
Here is the historical phenology report from the ‘Progress of the Seasons Project’ for 2-4 May.
Story Behind the Headlines:
Before you all run out and search for American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) in flower, the Ginseng (or “Ginsing” in an obsolete spelling) being referred to in the headline is Dwarf Ginseng (Panax trifolius). As the scientific names suggest, these are close relatives distinguished by their leaf characteristics. Although “quinquefolius” means five-leaved and “trifolius” means three-leaved, this is not the reliable leaf distinction. Instead, one should look for leaflet stalks in the American, and unstalked (or “sessile”) leaflets in the Dwarf.
American Ginseng, note the long petioles on each of the five leaflets.
The two species are apparently also distinct in their chemistry. While American Ginseng has long been highly sought-after for its medicinal properties, Dwarf Ginseng has apparently not ‘shared the honors’. However, these are ‘honors’ best not to have – American Ginseng is considered globally rare, while Dwarf Ginseng, if not common, is, at least, not rare.
Peter Kalm, travelling in North American in the mid-1700s, described the avid Ameircan Ginseng hunt he observed:
During my stay in Canada all the merchants…received orders…to send over a quantity of Ginseng….The roots were accordingly collected in Canada with all possible haste. The Indians especially travelled about the country in order to collect as much as they could and to sell it to the merchants in Montreal. ….French farmers were not able during that time to hire a single Indian, as they commonly do to help them in the harvest. Many people feared lest by continuing for several successive years to collect these plants without leaving one or two in each place to propagate their species, there would soon be very few of them left, which I think is very likely to happen, for by all accounts they formerly grew in abundance round Montreal, but at present there is not a single plant of it to be found, so effectually have they been rooted out.
Dwarf Ginseng in flower a few years back. In our historical data, this is just starting to flower in the State’s southern reaches.
While some medicinal properties were attributed to the Dwarf species, these plants were apparently not widely accepted on the Chinese markets and hence did not become part of this early international trade. Apparently, the depredations on American Ginseng have continued to the present day, although some are attempting to cultivate it.
Also joining the ‘second shift’ of Spring flowering is the aptly named Canada Mayflower, although in our records it was called ‘Two-leaved Solomon’s Seal’. Canada Mayflower is a small, sometimes abundant plant that does not immediately resemble the larger, arching True and False Solomon Seals. However, the name is not so misleading since Mayflower does share the same botanical family (but not genus) as the Solomon Seals. (What gives one native plant the honor of being “True”, while another native is stuck with the moniker of “False” is a tale for another time; this is not the only pair of plants where this occurs.)
Among the woody plants, Hobblebush, with its low, ‘hobbling’ branches and prominent flowers has started to bloom. Hobblebush, a Viburnum, is a close, wild relative of the Old World Snowball Bush (also a Viburnum), which is also reported to be flowering. Judging by the abundance of records, Snowball Bush took up some of the garden and hedge space later given over to Forsythia. One can still find it for sale as “Old Fashion Snowball Viburnum”.
Hickories (Carya) and their relatives the Walnut and Butternut (two species in the genus Juglans) are beginning to bloom. Although not heralded much in the historical or current records, some people tap Walnut trees to make Walnut syrup. The sap’s sugar content is about the same as that of Sugar Maple, but the total sap production is much less, which is probably one reason that this run goes largely unmarked. “Hickory Syrup” is not made from Hickory sap but rather by flavoring a sugar syrup with Hickory bark (it seems to be an acquired taste).
A native bee (looks like an Andrena to me, but I might be wrong) visits the flowers of of Blueberry or Huckleberry.
Also showing its petals is what Torrey called “Dwarf Blue Huckleberry”. “Huckleberry” is a common name that encompasses several, related species – this may not be Huckleberry Finn’s namesake, but it’s at least a close cousin. Most likely, this historical record refers to a species of what we today call Blueberry (i.e., a Vaccinium). The relatively early flowers of this group are appealing to several of our native bees and, indeed, Bumblebees are much more adept at pollinating this group of plants than the European Honey Bee, evidently because they can buzz their wings at just the right frequency to convince the Blueberries to release their pollen.
REGIONAL SUMMARIES OF THE HISTORICAL RECORDS
Herbs: Trout Lily (1851), Trailing Arbutus (1852), Trillium (1853), Violet (1853) and Marsh Marigold (1853) bloomed in New Lebanon on these dates. Wild Strawberry flowered in Chatham in 1852. Meadow Rue and Marsh Marigold in bloom in Amenia, reported in 1849.
A pine forest with a Canada Mayflower carpet.
Woodies: Red Maple and Sugar Maple in leaf, and Shadbush in bloom at Fishkill Landing. Sugar Maples leaf out in New Lebanon in 1853; in Chatham, Sweetbriar and Lilac was in leaf in 1852. New Lebanon noted blooming Shadbush, together with Black Elderberry and Sweetbriar in leaf in 1853. In 1836, Kinderhook also reported Shadbush in bloom on these days.
Birds: In Amenia, 1849, Whippoorwills first appeared. Swallows first seen on these days in Poughkeepsie in 1835. Swallows appeared in Kinderhook in 1839.
Agriculture: New Lebanon observed blooming Gooseberries in 1851 and Blackberry in leaf in 1853. Pear was in leaf and in flower in New Lebanon in 1853, Strawberries bloomed in the same time. In 1840 and 1844, Apple Trees were seen flowering in Kinderhook. Cherries blossomed in Red Hook in 1832. In 1840, blossomed Apple Trees appeared in Kinderhook. Reported Apple Trees putting forth leaves in Fishkill landing, 1858, and in New Lebanon, 1853.
Canada Mayflower, also known as Two-leafed Solomon’s Seal.
Herbs: Noted in flower on this day was Bellwort, Sorrel, Ragged Sailor (an interesting name of uncertain application), Pansy Violet, Dwarf Ginseng, Two-Leaved Bishop’s Cap, Iris, Hepatica, Venus Fly Trap (?), Columbine, Sheppard’s Purse, Marsh Marigold, and two Crowfoot (aka Buttercup). Reports also included blooming Daffodil (three records), Dandelion, Saxifrage, and two Trillium; four reports of bloomed Windflower and three of Spring Beauty, three of Trout Lily and one Bellwort. First flowerings twixt the weeds included Narrow-Leaved Plantain and Yellow Clover.
Woodies: Reported in four accounts was Shadbush in bloom; three observed blooming Dogwood, two Horse Chestnut, Sugar Maple, and Red Maple flowered. Snowball, Yellow Rose and Hobble Bush also had blossomed. White Oak, Mockernut Hickory and Chestnut had leafed. Flowered Lilac, Dogwood, Flowering Almond, Sassafras, Shadbush and Sugar Maple was reported. Observed in leaf: Lilac, Sugar Maple, Black Walnut, Wild Black Cherry and Black Locust.
Birds: Catbirds, Swallows (four reports), Whippoorwills (three reports) and Bobolink first seen. Two reports of arrived Martins.
Other Critters: In 1844, Pleasant Valley noted the first Frogs heard.
Agriculture: Peaches, Pears, Currants, Gooseberries, Strawberries, and Cherries blooming. Also flowered was Apricot, Apple and Cherry was in leaf. The planting of Corn and Potatoes was commenced on this day. Asparagus harvested and Oats sown on these days.
One of Canada Mayflower’s close relatives, the so-called False Solomon’s Seal.
Herbs: Flowering Tulips reported.
Woodies: Trembling Poplar noted in leaf. Sassafras and Wild Plum in flower in Kingston, 1802.
Agriculture: Blossomed Currants in Delaware County.
Woodies: Choke-Cherry and Lilac had put forth leaves. Shadbush had leafed. Lilac flowered in Lansingburgh in 1844.
Birds: In Greenwich, Chimney Swallows arrived on this day in two consecutive years. First arrived Barn Swallows.
Other Critters: Frogs first heard in Lansingburgh, 1843.
Agriculture: Currants blossomed and had leafed on this day. Reported Plums blooming
Herbs: Dutchman’s Breeches, Red and White Baneberry, Columbine, Spring Beauty, Daffodils, Trout Lily and Violets had blossomed. Two reports of flowered Violets; Marsh Marigold and Hepatica also bloomed. Reported Daffodils flowering on these dates.
Woodies: American Elm flowered. Reports of Dogwood flowered.
Birds: Four locales noted arriving Barn Swallows. Martins arrived in Johnstown in 1842.
Agriculture: Ploughing began. Three reported Plums blooming and Cherries had also flowered. Three reports of flowered Gooseberry. Apples, Currants, and Plums; Gooseberries also observed in leaf.
Herbs: Two reports of flowered Daffodils and Dandelion also noted as bloomed. Bellwort, Dwarf Ginseng, and Hepatica bloomed.
Woodies: Three reported Shadbush flowerings.
Birds: Bobolink and Barn Swallows appeared (twice). Martins seen in two locales.
Other Critters: Year’s first Frogs heard on this day in Utica, 1837.
Agriculture: Apples, Strawberries and Plums flowered and Cherries had leafed.
Pennsylvania Sedge in flower.
Herbs: Barren Strawberry, Field Pennycress, Dandelion, Buttercup, Blue Cohosh, Marsh Blue Violet, Roundleaf Yellow Violet, Trout Lily, Wild Strawberry, Andromeda and Sedges had bloomed.
Woodies: Flowered specimens include Hop Hornbeam, Sugar Maple and Red Maple. In leaf was Sugar Maple. Reported Willow and American Honeysuckle blooming. Blooming Shadbush observed
Birds: Arrived “Swallows” in two reports; Passenger Pigeons also observed. Barn Swallows first arrived in Oswego County, 1859. Potsdam noted first seen Barn Swallows in 1846.
Other Critters: Peepers first heard and Grass Hoppers appeared.
Agriculture: In Oswego County, Cherry had blossomed. Currants in bloom noted in two reports; Plum also flowered.
Herbs: Flowered Bloodroot and Bellwort; four reports of Daffodils blooming. Flowered plants included Saxifrage, Bloodroot, Daffodil, Dandelion and Hyacinth. Flowered Marsh Marigold, Early Saxifrage, and Two-Leaved Bishop’s Cap.
Woodies: Specimens in leaf included Yellow Poplar, Red Maple and Sugar Maple. Sugar Maple reported in bloom twice. Shadbush, Spicebush, and Dogwood flowered. Butternut and Hawthorn in leaf.
Birds: Hummingbirds and Barn Swallows appeared. Martins arriving noted in a pair of reports. “Swallows” first observed in four locales.
Agriculture: Seven reports of blossomed Plums, Currants flowered reported in two. Cherry, Peach, Apple (five reports), Gooseberries, and Strawberry bloomed. In leaf was Apple. Coupled reports of Apricots bloomed. Indian Corn planted. Also noted flowering was Cherries, Currants, Apples and Apricots.
The first flowering Shadbush we’ve seen in the neighborhood.
Herbs: Two reported Sedges and Violets blooming. Also in bloom was Dwarf Ginseng, Jack in the Pulpit, Marsh Marigold, Spring Beauty, Spotted Geranium, Hepatica, Tufted Vetch, Rough-Leaf Ricegrass, Buttercup, Two-Leaved Solomon’s Seal, Early Meadow Rue and Foam Flower. Crown Imperial Flower and Saxifrage blossomed. Dandelion, Bellwort, Golden Alexander, Cardamine, Dahlia, Daffodil, and Seersucker Sedge reported blooming.
Woodies: Five reported blossoming Willow; bloomed Silver Maple, Chestnut, Aspen, Shadbush, Lilac, Blue Berry and Elm; reports of leaved Elderberry and Red Maple. Black Locust and Buckeye had put forth leaves. Poplar, Dogwood, Butternut Hickory, Birch, Hawthorn and Shadbush had flowered. First observed blooming of American Honeysuckle and Spicebush; in leaf was American Elm and Shadbush.
Birds: First appeared Goldfinch and Chimney Swallows.
Agriculture: Cherry, Apricots, Peaches, Pear and Apple bloomed. In leaf was Apple and Pear. Two reports that Peaches had flowered.
Herbs: Observed Dandelion in flower.
Birds: Whippoorwills first appeared. Barn Swallows appeared. Swallows arrived.
Agriculture: Bloomed was Strawberry and Apricot. Two locales noted Plum Trees in bloom.
Herbs: Two-Leaved Bishop’s Cap and Violet had bloomed. Sugar Maple and Red Maple had flowered. Hyacinth, Wild Strawberry and Tulip had also flowered.
Woodies: Reported in leaf was Flowering Dogwood. Cherries blossoming noted in two reports. American Elm flowered.
Agriculture: Bloomed Apples, Peaches, Pears and Strawberries reported.