First Signs of Spring

By February, it is not unusual for some people to get a little tired of winter. Is this happening to you? Did you know that some of the changes of spring are starting to happen? Lets see what signs of spring we can find this month.


Plants

In wet spots near streams and in swampy areas there is a plant which may start to flower sometime this month. It has an unusual chemistry for a plant. It actually can get warm from its own use of the food it made and stored last summer. In late winter and early spring, it can melt its way through the frozen ground. Once it comes up it flowers. What kind of plant is this? Not one usually found in gardens. The plant is the skunk cabbage.

Many people think that trees and shrubs grow buds in the spring. What really happens is that these plants make new buds in late summer when they have lots of sunlight to power food making and growth. Then as winter ends, the buds begin to swell and become so big that people begin to see them. Look at the trees and shrubs around your school and home. Can you find some buds? Keep an eye on them to see when they begin to bloom.

One of the easiest plants to see getting ready for spring is the red-osier dogwood. As its sap begins to move up its branches to feed the growth of its buds, the stems of this shrub become bright red. Look for it in yards where it has been planted and in fields where it grows wild. Another sign of spring sap movement in plants is the tapping of maples to make syrup.

Animals

Now is the time when some mammals are starting to mate so they will have babies this spring. At night, rabbits are starting to get together and mate. Sometimes male rabbits get into fights. You can find clues that all this is happening--small clumps of rabbit fur on lawns along with lots of rabbit tracks in the snow or mud. Listen near an undeveloped field or woods and you might hear a fox barking at night as they start to mate in February.

In the daytime, some birds are starting to get ready for spring by singing to attract mates and to warn others away from their territories. Black-capped Chickadees and Northern Cardinals are two of the first to sing on sunny days in late winter. Great-horned Owls are often sitting on eggs in their nests by February.

How do all these plants and animals know that spring is on the way? Scientists think that both plants and animals have changes that start in their bodies because of the way days are getting longer and nights are getting shorter. Have you noticed that days are getting longer? Is it daylight longer into the evening? Does the sun come up earlier in the morning? Each Monday in February, look on the weather page of the newspaper or in an almanac to see when the sun rises and sets. As the month goes by, the warmth and light of the sun will increase, day by day.

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