Chasing a temperate spring


The spring blooms of the North American desert are long since over, but the same cannot be said everything. In England, spring is just arriving, in a tumult of wind and fog and rain and the occasional bright sunny day. I just moved across one continent and one ocean and have been given the distinct pleasure of experiencing spring twice.

Here are two small scenes from my second spring.

brassica rapa

First, a field of rapeseed (a.k.a. canola, or Brassica napus). The crop flowers in early spring, and turns entire landscapes a brilliant shade of yellow. This kind of monoculture agriculture often has immediate downsides for local biodiversity and provisioning of ecosystem services like pollination. It is a high price to pay for the beauty of these brightly painted fields.


Second, a Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata) in full spring bloom. The species is commonly planted, and in spring they cover the ground with a carpet of soft petals. On my first trip to a tropical rain forest I was very impressed by the wide number of species that bloomed before putting out leaves – it took a long time before I remembered that many temperature species like cherries take the same strategy. In the days since I took this photo, the flowers are gone, and bright green leaves have already flushed and begun to expand.

I will probably get a third spring when I head to the Rockies for summer fieldwork – I am effectively journeying to places with longer winters and delayed phenology faster than the planet’s annual orbit cycle can bring warmer conditions to them. It is my favorite part of year, and I am lucky to get to see it so many times.

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