Spring colors spring forth

This past week the cold colors of winter have exploded into bright Spring colors throughout southwest Mississippi – and none too soon in my opinion! Around here there is something interesting and beautiful to see in every season but I’ve had enough of the bleak grays and browns of the winter woods for a while.

Most all of the color in the plant world for the past couple of months has been cultivated plants in peoples’ yards. Loropetalum and camellias have been blooming here and there, and shrubby nandinas have huge clusters of fat red berries.  Mr. Hal Pezant has an amazing stand of Okinawan cherry trees in Summit.

Those cherries and the beautiful purple and white Japanese magnolias always bloom so early that you wonder if they are going to get set back by a late-winter killing frost, but this year they seem to have known something that we didn’t about the coming Spring.  

There are a couple of particularly majestic Japanese magnolias in south McComb on the east side of Highway 51 but those trees have just about finished and dropped all their petals by now.

This year it seems that the Bradford pears are a bit early too.

But now there are Spring colors all over – not just ornamentals in yards! Everywhere you look, wild onions are producing their iconic white flowers in fields.  If those don’t take you back to your childhood I don’t know what would.  

In the woods, one of the first flowering trees you’ll see each Spring is Hawthorn.  Look for a spindly understory tree barely taller than a man with leaves shaped like parsley and white blossoms with yellow centers.  Hawthorn flowers have such long,  prominent stamens that the flowers look fuzzy from a distance.

Ditches and roadsides throughout the area are alive with yellow daffodils, pale paperwhites, dandelions in both their yellow flower and their white powderpuff phases, and fat white clover.  

Along fencelines and fallow fields you will find tangles of blackberries in bloom, and on the edges of woods, it’s not hard to find trees choked with the yellow blossoms of Carolina jasmine.  

Cherokee rose (rosa laevigata) at Pipes Lake in Homochitto National Forest. The story goes that these flowers sprang up along the Trail of Tears wherever the womens tears fell.

You might even see a dogwood already starting to bloom –  I have.

Not every pretty flower is as welcome as the next, though.  Along those same fencelines, old homesites, and trails you will find noxious privet starting to show white.  I think privet must be one of the most allergenic plants on the Earth – it always makes me feel like someone has poured gasoline in my eyes.

Throughout southwest Mississippi, you will see oaks, pines, and sweetgums with their yellow-green catkins ready to burst and paint our cars, windows, roadways, and everything else a pale, dirty yellow.  Fortunately, pine pollen grains are too large to be allergenic (so I’ve been told), but they sure do make a mess.

It is totally worth venturing out into the mess of pollen and the irritation of privet to see the unbelievable color of the redbud trees and, perhaps the ultimate expression of late Spring around here – the azaleas and wild azaleas. You can expect them to start showing up and showing out in a couple of weeks.

Originally published in the Enterprise-Journal Newspaper

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Categories: Nature