If I were in charge, I would have ordered the leaves on the trees to unfold last week. Today the account of stored energy would have been bankrupt and the firewood account full. Winter has returned with a vengeance, locking up all of the liquids and freezing all accounts. Thankfully, I am not in charge.
Just behind and around the winter buds of trees, much of last year’s accumulation of carbohydrate is stored in the form of starch. The bankers in charge of this savings account are light sensitive pigments. Only when the nights are short and warm do they allow the conversion of the starchy savings to sugar. When this sugar enters the sap solution, the osmotic gradient is changed causing water to rush towards the buds, literally blasting them out of their embryonic sleep. Thus begins an avalanche of reactions that eventually bring us the foliage of summer.
Trees are wondrous creatures that are only recently becoming understood. Their ability to grow a new layer over their entirety is not only their nature but also a necessity. They absolutely have to grow this new tree around themselves or die. For a tree only lives for a year. Tree bankers must be very careful with the available starch on hand.
Phenology, or the advent of spring has been progressing right along. Moaning, groaning lake ice beckoned the geese almost a month ago. Sand hill cranes have begun their season of song and dance and a kingfisher has scolded the yellow eyes and buffleheads for over two weeks near the end of the pier. Last week’s temperatures in the seventies brought out T-shirts, motorcycles, a couple of daffodils and the muskies up the Wingra creek. Yet the investors in leaves have held fast, aware that the average snowfall in April is three inches.
Another average, April 15th, is the start-up date for local landscapers. The frost is out of the ground and this is the time that the soil is usually dried enough to work. But conservative banking within the world of trees holds back until the first of May to risk an investment gained throughout last year’s growing season.
This will be a year when spring will explode into summer. The orderly, slow progression of events has been held in check by the abnormally cool temperatures. The stage is set and all of the actors in place. Remember this wintry, snowy day because in a week it will seem as if this day was a dream. In a couple of weeks, the tree banker’s will be wildly spending their reserves, throwing their caution to the warm winds of May.