Yesterday on the way to work, I noticed Red Maples blooming around the Pee Dee River. Later, on my way home I heard Rudy Mancke from Nature Notes on NPR say he had also noticed Red Maples blooming. He indicated this was a little earlier than normal. He also says one of his friends has reported seeing a Gulf Fritterlary butterfly out and about. So is spring coming earlier than normal? Earlier this week, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter, but with an accuracy of 40%, can we really trust him?
According to the National Weather Service, our weather so far this year has been pretty normal. In the climate plot below, the temperatures up to Feb. 4 have been recorded. The pink shows above average temperatures and the blue shows below average. So far we are looking pretty average.
According to Weather Underground, January ranks 3 out of the last 5 years in heat unit accumulation. Again, average. No concrete evidence that spring will come any earlier than normal.
So whats the deal with the Red Maples and butterflies? Michael Dirr, former UGA horticulture professor and author of the “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants”, wrote in his book that he has seen some red maples that naturally bloom as early as late January. So seeing these trees bloom now may not be too out of the ordinary. Rudy suggests some of the fluctuations in temperatures may have pushed the Maples to begin flowering. Maybe some of these and warm afternoons in the upper 60’s have these early bloomers ready to come out of dormancy. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to start seeing some color returning to the landscape.