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Author: Hollis
Date: 2018-03-12 19:36:00
Blog: In the Company of Plants and Rocks


Yesterday, late in the afternoon, I made my monthly visit to the boxelder tree I’m following, not expecting to find anything new. After all, it’s still winter. But I was wrong. The tree had changed, in fact in two ways. One is obvious, the second much more subtle (if even that).Since last month, the sun has "moved" significantly. It now sets far enough north that it is beginning to shine into the nook where the boxelder grows. Here comes the sun … but will it shine on the boxelder? To see exactly how much the sun had shifted, I used SunCalc, a handy app that displays “sun movement and sunlight phases during the given day at the given location” (free, web-based). In the first diagram below, the orange curve is the sun's path back in early February. The second diagram shows how much farther north it sets now, just a month later. This is so encouraging! Yes, it happens every year … but we’re always relieved to see the days lengthen, the sun set farther north, plants come to life, etc. When we arrived at the boxelder nook (inside corner in photo above), the sun was still far enough above the horizon that I thought it might yet shine on the tree before setting. So we made a short detour to the prairie nearby to visit a patch of Easter daisies (towndsendias), usually the earliest wildflowers to bloom here. Most plants had plump "buds" (technically composite heads of tiny buds, being members of the Asteraceae). Some heads were topped with white points—the clustered tips of ray flowers starting to emerge. I spotted one townsendia in bloom, but it was already closing for the day. The temperature had maxed out at just 47º F, and when I photographed these plants it had dropped to 35º; the low the previous night was 6º. No wonder Easter daisies close up every evening! Time for bed. House keys for scale. Meanwhile, back at the boxelder the sun had indeed reached far enough into the nook to shine on the north side of the tree, and was making shadow branches on the metal building. This is one of the two changes I mentioned at the beginning of the post. A moment in the sun … brief now, but longer soon. The other change is much more subtle … or maybe only wishful thinking. Are the buds showing hints of green? Or are they simply basking in the golden glow before dusk? (click on image to decide) This is my contribution to the monthly virtual gathering of tree-followers, kindly hosted by The Squirrelbasket. More news available here. Consider joining us!

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