David and I spent the weekend in New York and the streets there are lined with flowering cherry trees, crab apples, forsythia, magnolias. Some hardwoods had tiny leaves emerging from their buds, lighting up their crowns and making the world feel softer. The splashs of color and blossom were delightful; the evidence of spring growth was reassuring and made me happy.
Then home, to tighter buds, grayer days and temperatures that have me wearing wool again when I sit at my desk. But from that desk I also look out the west window to some branches of the maple tree in our front yard, and every day I notice how much bigger the buds are on the tree, how the balls of red brighten the landscape.
Two days ago I went out to examine those buds and realized what I’ve been looking at are flowers, not buds. Really gorgeous and even trippy flowers. Balls of fuzz puzzling enough that David and I spent a good bit of time reading online about maple buds and blossoms. We learned a lot.
Maples have both male and female flowers on the same tree, the male with the sperm needed to pollinate the female. As the leaves start to emerge so do the seeds, wrapped in the papery-winged helicopters I stuck on my nose as a kid, peeling open the seed pocket and using the bit of juiciness to make it stick. The seed pods — samaras — are shaped so they spin in wind and can travel, sometimes a long way.
Yesterday we were in Portland and there were no flowering trees, though the magnolias looked ready, long flutes of bud with just a slip of blossom showing on a few. I missed the clouds of blossoms we’d seen lining the streets in New York. Spring in cities can be so pretty, I wanted to see it again.
We went down to the waterfront and in the parking lot saw some maples flowering. I went to get a closer look, these flowers tamer and less flamboyant than those on my tree, fewer stamens, less fuzz. Today it’s gray again and not particularly warm, but the maple flowers are still popping and pollinating and getting the whole spring thing going. Here it comes.