Sights and Sounds of Spring in Central Pennsylvania

Yesterday the weather cooperated in the afternoon just long enough for me to get in a little gardening. The air wasn’t real warm, but a touch of sun here and there after the previous days of rain felt really good. The vegetable garden is too wet to turn over, but at least it’s cleaned up and ready for that task.

The sights and sounds of Spring are many, and here’s my list of new life stirring in the last couple weeks here in Central Pennsylvania.

  • Canada geese and snow geese flying high, going back up North
  • blue birds settling into a blue bird nest box
  • tulips sprouting their greenery
  • Snow drops Gaultheria sp. emerging and flowering
  • lily vegetation growing again
  • Great Horned Owl hooting to a mate just before dawn
  • grass getting greener
  • rabbits enjoying the returning sorrel in the garden
  • giant blue hyssop sprouting up its first purple leaves
  • catnip growing up from last year’s plants
  • parsley and oregano greening up
  • fennel regrowing from bulb left in ground
  • return of a pair of nesting Eastern Kingbirds
  • Crocus bulbs up and flowering
  • songbirds singly loudly in the early morning
  • False Indigo Baptista just now sprouting

The maple trees will be opening their buds any day now, maybe today. The last three days their buds have been getting bigger and more noticeable.

Spring is always welcoming on the long side of Winter. So far, we seen and heard quite a few stirrings of Spring.

How about you? What is your favorite Spring sighting?

Coltsfoot Heralds Spring with its Bright Yellow Blossoms

One of my favorite scenes in Spring is the return of the coltsfoot. Driving down most any country road in central Pennsylvania you can see these early “dandelions” before anything else is blooming.

Of course coltsfoot is an entirely different plant than dandelion, but many people will mistake it for such. Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara, does look like dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, in that the yellow flowers have many rays, but that’s where the similarity ends.

The flowering stems of dandelions are thin hollow tubes, where the coltsfoot stems have noticeable scales.

Coltsfoot flowering with few leaves present.

Coltsfoot flowering along a country road in Pennsylvania.

When coltsfoot flowers its leaves are hardly noticeable as they are just beginning to be formed, whereas dandelion leaves are present before it flowers. A dandelion’s basal leaves are narrow, lobed or cleft and at ground level, while coltsfoot leaves are roundish, broad, held high and their shape suggests a colt’s foot. When flowering is over for the season coltsfoot leaves continue to grow until they’re larger than your palm.

Another similarity between the two is the white, fluffy seed head produced by the spent flowers. Pictures to come later.

I mentioned that coltsfoot is the only thing flowering now, but that is not quite correct. Maybe it’s the first noticeable, native flower. A couple of very small flowers are out now too, namely Pennsylvania Bitter Cress, Cardamine pensylvanica, and Purple Dead Nettle, Lamium purpureum. And the natives are being out done right now by the flower garden bulbs. Check out this nice purple and white crocus!

Purple and white crocus blooming.

Purple and white crocus blooming in the flower garden. Another crocus is about to come up, you can see its bud on the left at the base of its white-striped linear leaves.

Stay tuned for more flowering beauties and look around your neighborhood for what’s coming up!