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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Monday, April 17, 2017

No reason to complain

Some people, of course, complain about everything. Some people in our little town complain that the city does not mow the parks early enough in the spring; they dislike seeing the "weeds" that interrupt the view of what they think should be a swath of pure green. I do not share this complaint.

Being fortunate enough to live next to one of our parks, I am generally delighted at the delay. The spread of white in the photo below is not snow, or bare sand, but drifts of claytonia, commonly known around here as spring beauties. That little rise, by the way, is the Turtle Mound, part of a complex of Hopewell earthworks well over a thousand years old.

The next block down includes quite a nice mixed grouping of spring "weeds" or "wildflowers," depending on one's view of them. From a distance, the area does perhaps look a little unkempt.

As one moves closer, however, the view becomes progressively more interesting. Here, the weeds reveal themselves as a mix of spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum), and violets (probably Viola sororia, but my violet identification skills are lacking).

The lamium is one of the most cursed-at of our local weeds because of its tendency to spread, but this mint relative plays well with others and asks for no care, so I have rather a fondness for it, and for its cousin henbit.

Besides, it is an important nectar source for early bees, which need all the help they can get. And look at that blossom. If it were hard to grow, we would pay for it. (Other lamiums are offered at exorbitant prices at local garden centers, although they are probably not quite as enthusiastic as this one.)

Spring beauties and violets are the classic April combination in our neck of the woods, and both are essential to the health of our local ecosystems. Tiny as they are, they feed the earliest, smallest bees and flies, which become food for the birds that are returning to the area (as well as those tougher customers who hang around all year). Violets have the additional distinction of being the sole food source for the caterpillars of certain species of fritillary, some of our most attractive butterflies. (One must occasionally consider aesthetics.)

And of course, spring brings the return of the ubiquitous dandelion--not native, but probably here to stay. I happen to love their perhaps obnoxiously  cheerful yellow flowers, but they, too, are a major nectar source. If allowed to go to seed, they feed songbirds, particularly the tiny, ground-feeding chipping sparrow.

So on the issue of "late" mowing: saving taxpayer money by starting the mowing season relatively late in the spring also saves the pollinators and the songbirds. Tell any grouches you know to stop complaining.

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