by Marjorie Rachlin
Spring burst out with a “Wow” over Passover/Easter weekend. Forsythia and daffodils in yellow, cherry trees in pink, magnolias in white – Forest Hills is beautiful.
I knew spring was coming when, on April 1st, my neighbor called to say that the spring peepers were trilling in her pond. (Last year they started March 12th.) And bird song has picked up, particularly the cardinals. The male in my yard sits high in a tree and sings “Cheer, cheer,” but he can vary it. Cardinals have as many as ten different songs. Both males and females sing, unusual in the bird world.
And several weeks ago, I knew winter was waning when I looked up through my windshield (at a stop sign!) and saw a red haze on a tree along the street. “The red maples have begun to bloom,” I thought.
Those tiny red blooms silhouetted against the blue sky will soon produce hundreds of winged maple seeds that float lazily down onto our lawns.
After the maple trees come the elms. They make a brown haze against the sky.
Their blooms aren’t as pretty, but just as productive – bunches of little flat green seeds about a quarter-inch wide are already forming on the branches. Goldfinches and squirrels love them.
Right now is the time to look for the willow trees, as they begin to leaf out. Their weeping branches make a lovely yellow-green cascade. Willows will grow in our yards, but their real habitat is along streams and rivers – they line the Potomac at Hains Point.
Around Forest Hills you’ll see that the star magnolias are in full glory.
These are a small tree, native to Japan, introduced here many years ago. It’s “tender,” in landscape parlance, so let’s hope we don’t have a late frost, which would brown the blossoms.
The sycamores are still bare, not ready to green-up yet, but without leaves the one at the corner of corner of 30th and Davenport is even more striking. This is an old tree, with beautiful patterns of mottled bark on its trunk and branches.
Sycamores are a native American tree, but they prefer to live on flood plains, not city lots. You usually find them along the Potomac. They are a member of the plane family and sometimes called “plane trees” (the Latin name is platanus occidentalis). Our American sycamore is a relative of the smaller plane tree we see on city streets in London and France.
We are blessed in our trees in Forest Hills – and we have the oaks to look forward to, with their ocher tassels and their yellow pollen (and for some people, allergy symptoms).
Our new streams at Broad Branch and LinneanI can’t wait to see what life will develop in our new stream in the months to come. There is a lot of water in the pools because of all the snow and rain so far this year. I’m hoping that frogs or toads have discovered it and will lay eggs. I know we will have dragonflies – they were using it last fall.
So far the streams new trees and wildflowers aren’t leafing out. The mallards are feeding there, dabbling in the pools, and I hope one pair will nest nearby, as they did last year. It’s going to be fun to see what happens next.