Plants are Beginning to Reawaken from Winter
Les Harrison is the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Director
Groundhogs across the United States agree, winter is far from over. Some plants and trees in our area, however, are trying their best to get a head start for spring. Birds and bees are anxious for these early bloomers as the temperature gauges slowly begin their ascent to warmer seasons.
For some trees and plants, the only sign of resurgence is buds swelling on the tips of bare branches. Only the slightest hint of green is visible to the keen observer. Ever so slowly, the buds expand and the gray bark peels away to reveal green and then the color of the bloom to come. Every day the revival’s evidence becomes more evident as more and more buds follow suit.
Redbud trees are one of the early bloomer locally with their diminutive purplish-red blooms providing a stark Technicolor contrast to the blue sky. This native tree may reach 25 feet in height and is commonly found growing under much taller trees. There are 10 distinct species in the Cercis, or redbud genus, found in the warmer temperate regions of Asia, Europe, and North America.
The eastern redbud is native to North Florida. Leaves follow as soon as the blooms fade. A generous supply of seed pods for the next generation produce clusters on the branches. As the summer dissolves into autumn, the seed pods dry. Each thin and translucent pod produces six to 10 flat elongated brown seed. The seeds are randomly distributed widely on the wind, and by birds and other animals. Seed will germinate wherever they land and quickly send a deep taproot into the soil. Most redbuds live only about 20 years, but are a brilliant harbinger of the spring to come.
Another Wakulla County early bloomer are Chickasaw plums. This native fruit producer is currently preparing for an eruption of blooms. In a coordinated maneuver executed with military precision, the Chickasaw plum explodes in white blooms seemingly overnight. Local pollinators quickly recognize the opportunity to cast off their winter isolation and descend upon the pollen laden blooms. These small trees literally hum with activity.
Like the redbud, many Chickasaw plums are found under the canopy of taller trees. Additionally, the leaves quickly follow as the blooms drop to the ground. Small plums grow to ripeness in the early summer. Some are sweet, others tart, but there is no way to tell until sampling.
Not to be outdone, Carolina jessamine is beginning to open it yellow flowers. This native vine is found from Central America to the southeastern U.S. and is currently beginning its annual bloom in Wakulla County. Unfortunately, the colorful blooms contain a toxic compound. Unlucky European Honeybees do not fare well if they visit this early bloomer.
Blooms notwithstanding, another frigid drop in temperature could be expected. If so, the spring blooms will begin again after the thaw.
To learn more about the coming spring bloom in Wakulla County, visit the UF/IFAS Wakulla County website at http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco or call 850-926-3931.