Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April 14: Seeing Red

This afternoon, like some strange flashback to fall, I was struck by the red haze in the trees as I drove past a stretch of budding maple trees. Poplars are starting to leaf out in places, too--the leaves are about the size of a squirrel's ear--so there's an interesting interplay of red maple flowers, freshly minted yellow-green poplar leaves, and that robin's egg blue sky that you only see in spring. Not my favorite color combination as far as nature's palette goes--a little garish for me--but because it indicates the progression of the season, I'll take it.

Like the magnolia, the maple blooms before its leaves unfurl, and seen up close the flowers are frilly, intricate little things:
From a US Forest Service website on trees, I learned this: "Red maple flowers are structurally perfect." Of course they are! What product of nature isn't?

I also read this: "The species is polygamo-dioecious. Thus, some trees are entirely male, producing no seeds; some are entirely female; and some are monoecious, bearing both male and female flowers. On monoecious trees, functioning male and female flowers usually are separated on different branches. Sex of the flower is not a function of tree vigor. The species shows a tendency toward dioeciousness rather than toward dichogamy." I'm not entirely sure what that all means, but it sounds like a maple stand is a bit of a red light district, with some gender ambiguity and interesting flower sex going on.

Blooming maple tree,
the rush of spring through your limbs
makes us both redden.

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