What White Tree is Blooming Now

My short, personal essay “What White Tree is Blooming Now” from 2018 has just been archived online, thanks to The Hopper, an environmental literary magazine. And the timing could not be more perfect…

Here’s the first bit, to test if you’d like to read more:

It started. The procession of trees. The trees don’t move, but the white does: white tree blossoms, from species to species.
First, in late February and if not charred by sleet, come white flowers of star magnolia.
Stinky Bradford pears are next, trees so ubiquitous in corporate landscapes (and invasive in natural ones) that when they froth white, even people who don’t notice trees notice.
Then, dogwood. Everyone loves dogwood.
Serviceberry, hawthorn, black cherry, yellowwood, black locust, and so on, week by week of the rolling spring, one white tree bloom after the other. It won’t stop till summer, and by then, who is watching? By then, Nashville is a weedy jungle and we stay inside to escape the chiggers. 

But I’ll be watching. The procession is important. There are rules: only white, only trees, and only where I can see them while I go about my business.

Continue reading “What White Tree is Blooming Now”

Sidewalk Nature: Maple Flower Flurries

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male flowers of the sugar maple

Maple flower flurries.

No sitting on the porch with a teacup today: falling flowers flit past the brim despite my hand as cover.

This is one of those milestones of spring easily missed, especially if you don’t happen to live or walk or park under a Sugar Maple.
I love this moment. It helps make up for the maple flowers leaving, and the maple leaves coming.
If I pay attention to all the steps—from bud to budburst to flower to leaf to fruit—spring feels slower, more manageable, less panicked. Continue reading “Sidewalk Nature: Maple Flower Flurries”

Black Walnut “log” (food and dye)

black walnut on twig
at an interstate easement

Walnut time is here again, and I’ve just realized I never posted my walnut work from a couple of years ago. I need to record what I’ve made so far, because 1) I’ll build on it next time, or 2) there will be no next time. I never know if an enthusiasm will catch fire or burn out. Either way, walnut work must be logged.

Continue reading “Black Walnut “log” (food and dye)”

Cedar Apple

To me, this particular “spring ephemeral” is as welcome as a wildflower. It is a sign of the season: a “cedar apple,” doing its wacky thing in wet spring weather. This one is on our volunteer red-cedar tree in the front yard, and I’ve been waiting for the rusty, dry galls to wake from winter. Continue reading “Cedar Apple”

Field Trip Leavings (Meadow Tree Trail)

honeylocust
Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Field Trip Leavings is a short essay I wrote after an autumn ramble through the Meadow Tree Trail at Warner Park Nature Center. I’m delighted to report it has been published in The Fourth River“a journal of nature and place-based writing published by Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing Programs.” Continue reading “Field Trip Leavings (Meadow Tree Trail)”

Crepe Myrtle Confetti After a Storm

Last night’s quick storm left evidence, but mostly of the subtle kind. We didn’t have to leap over any downed hackberry trees on our morning dog-walk. We did step on confetti, and lots of it.

Crepe myrtle wins as leading indicator of subtle disturbance because blooms are at their peak, and the neighborhood—and the city, and the South—has plenty of crepe myrtle. The flowers are available to be ripped in quantities and spun where directed. Red, pink and white confetti line streets and sidewalks, and in more than one lawn lie atop as if sprinkled by a careful hand.  Continue reading “Crepe Myrtle Confetti After a Storm”

White Pine “Flowers”

Holy pollen, I’ve lived next door to a white pine for years and hadn’t noticed the flowers till today. Now is prime bloom time, so where is your nearest white pine? Surely there is one, or a dozen close by. They are natives here, but are widely planted as ornamentals and living privacy fences. Gated communities adore them because they screen out the riffraff 365 days a year, except when the riffraff comes to mow.  Continue reading “White Pine “Flowers””

Willow oak flowers

willow oak leaf bud burst
leaves just emerging

willow oak female flowers
in the leaf axils: female flowers (future acorns if fertilized)

Willow oak (Quercus phellos) leaves emerging.
Remember how the elms flowered and fruited first, and then leafed? Oaks let it all hang out at the same time. And unlike elms, oaks are helped by pollinating insects.

I’ve loved three willow oaks so far: Continue reading “Willow oak flowers”

Black locust bloom

black locust sapling
Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia)

Look around the interstates right now, and the white trees you see are black. Black locust. There may be dogwood lingering, and I hope there is, but the two can’t be confused. Locust blooms are not little white plates stretched on graceful branches in the understory: rather, they are white bunches of grapes drooped from scraggly canopy. And they smell divine. Continue reading “Black locust bloom”