Five Reasons to not Hate February

Although February gets some love on the 14th, it remains a month most of us hate. 
I hated it until Naturalist training, during which a series of seasonal epiphanies taught me otherwise.

So, here is my Valentine to you: 5 Reasons to not Hate February.

#1 First-of-Year Spring Beauty

Claytonia virginica is the aptly named Spring Beauty: one of the most common native wildflowers in Nashville. Mostly white, or mostly pink, but always with pink veins that act as landing strips to pollinators. And the pollen is pink, too!

And get this, Nashville has a specialist, native bee that depends on that pollen to feed her babies. No other pollen will do.
No Spring Beauties = No specialist bee.
In March and April, watch Spring Beauties for a small, dark bee with pale pink pollen on her leg baskets, and then try to follow her to the nest. After a load, she’ll fly back to a pencil-sized hole in the ground to provision the nursery.

[Spring Beauty in the yard]

Spring Beauties just “happen” in old lawns that are not treated with herbicides. If your lawn has been purged of Spring Beauties: stop the herbicides, cross your fingers, sprinkle some seeds, and then go to Warner Park to see thousands in bloom.

#2 First-of-Year Early Buttercup

Buttercup is one of those common names that can mean several plants, but I don’t mean jonquil or narcissus or daffodil. I mean the sweet, little yellow faces that shine beside a sidewalk, and that nobody planted.
These are the buttercups to hold under someone’s chin to check if they “love butter,” and because the petals are slick and shiny, most everyone loves butter. (Heavy beards may skew results.)

Early buttercups (Ranunculus fascicularis) typically show up in a low place, as they prefer moist soil. On sidewalks, look near storm drains. And while they happily bloom under the radar of a mower blade, they will die under lawncare herbicides.

#3 Winter Annual Blooms:

Exotic winter annuals and Dandelion (a perennial) are blooming. They aren’t native, and sometimes they are too aggressive even for a “freedom lawn” like mine, but they can feed early pollinators. Honeybees aren’t native either, and when they venture out on warm, winter days, the exotic winter annuals might be the only nectar and pollen going.

From top left, clockwise: Hairy bittercress, Henbit, Bird’s Eye Speedwell, Dandelion.
(Photo is from the Metro Sportsplex sidewalk on 2/13/23)

-Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is peppery and delish: especially the seed pods (siliques). This is the plant that literally peppers your ankles when your feet hit the plants and trigger a seed capsule explosion.

-Henbit (Lamium amplexicaule) is in the mint family, but hens like it better than I do.

-Bird’s eye speedwell (Veronica persica) is one of several exotic speedwells that speed far too well across our yards. This one has the prettiest flowers, and sometimes the anthers are dark blue, like in this pic.

-Dandelion, as most of us know, is a perennial, and here in Nashville it can bloom any month of the year. Eat the leaves, brew a thimble-full of wine, roast the root, or make some tea.
Or leave it for the early pollinators: each flowerhead contains up to 200 florets.

#4 Native Red and Silver Maple Blooms:

[Red Maple flowers]

Both Red and Silver Maples are spectacular bloomers, and the younger trees will have branches low enough to ogle. There are no young Silver maples, as they’ve fallen out of favor w/ landscapers, but there are plenty of young Reds. Look for the female and male bits, and then return to watch the female bits slowly morph into twin samaras / helicopters.

For detailed pics of February Red maple twigs, see my SidewalkNature post, “Catch Spring Red-Handed”: link, and “Red Maple From Flower to Fruit”” link.

5. Sycamore Squeeze:

[Sycamore ball]

Look for the nearest Sycamore tree. Late February is prime time for the rope-y stem of a Sycamore ball to finally let go of the tree, and for its tight seed cluster to loosen and surrender.
Do not miss this weird and wonderful sign of the season!
For full instructions, see my Sycamore Squeeze post (link) and my quick Instagram video (link).

[Sycamore squeeze in progress…]

There are plenty more reasons to not hate February,
but if I don’t stop at five, I’ll never get this posted before March.

Happy February!

Other February highlights:
-Eastern red-cedar trees puff clouds of rusty pollen (male trees only).
-American elm buds are swelling and will bloom soon.
-Exotic Star Magnolia and Tulip Magnolias are blooming.
-Seed and insect-eating birds are easy to see on dead garden stalks.
-Squirrels still wear their winter white earmuffs.
-Orion is in plain view (SouthEast) when the sun sets in the West.
-Glade cress is blooming in Middle TN cedar glades. Get on your hands and knees to sniff these endemic beauties (but mind the splinters from the prickly pear).

The Spring Beauty mining bee is Adrena Erigeniae, and here’s a good place to learn more about her: Bug of the Week.


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Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.
She writes about everyday marvels amid everyday habitat loss at and on Instagram (@Jo_Brichetto); and her essays have appeared in Creative NonfictionBrevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, City Creatures, The Fourth River and other journals. Her almanac of urban nature encounters is forthcoming.

5 thoughts on “Five Reasons to not Hate February

  1. I LOVE THIS!!!  You are so engaging and clever.  And wise!!!  Thanks!!! Will share to so many.  It’s funny, now I can ‘hear your voice’ when reading your writing!!!  Fun!  

    Thank you!  Diane

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