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It's About Time - January 2014

Garrya elliptica, coast silk tassel. Left: male catkin segments as seen in nature. Right: catkin cartoon illustrating structure.
Garrya elliptic, coast silk tassel. Left: male catkin segments as seen in nature. Right: catkin cartoon illustrating structure.

Last month the east Delta Ponds froze and then seven inches of snow fell, making for a rare and beautiful scene. When the snow melted on a single warm day, the ponds revealed dozens of patches of tapering, branching, clear lines radiating outwards from one point. These patterns were evenly spread across the ponds, three to 10 feet in diameter, over inch-thick ice. The mechanism behind the formation of these patterns is a topic of debate among my geophysical friends.

A humorous scene was created by a nutria schlepping across the ice. Its tail left a wavy line in the snow looking like a big snake had crossed the pond. Footprints in each crook of the wavy lane gave it away as an animal track. Almost as funny were two Canada geese standing on the ice, seemingly unclear on the concept of ice. The frozen ponds were otherwise devoid of bird life. All the ducks, cormorants, geese, etc., took refuge across the highway in ponds where a current flowing from the river kept open water available.

Although winter for most animals begins with the Solstice, it is the beginning of spring for plants. Days are getting longer. As long as it is above freezing, light is the limiting variable for plants, not temperature. The evergreens are photosynthesizing, sap is rising, the buds swelling. The wind-pollinated trees begin blooming. January allergies come from white alder, filberts and the coast silk tassel tree. All have dangling catkins shedding pollen. 

A free download of my 2014 calendar pages is at: www.tinyurl.com/wagnercalendar