Sunday, June 3, 2018

One In Five Sometimes

Black Locust is a tree that is native to North America but not to New York State.  Central Pennsylvania marks the northern limit of the natural appearance of this tree.  Our late frost is the issue that hampers this tree's natural rhythms.  Here it is among the last trees to leaf out.  On occasion a late frost will take the young leaves but to date a second set has always followed.  Blossoms fare far harder here.  When frost ends them there are none that year.  If we are lucky blossoms form one year in five.  This is the first year in our memory that the month of May was totally frost free here.  Many of our plants have responded strongly to the steady warm temperatures. 

Huge clusters of white hooded flowers impact several of our senses.  Since most of my time is spent looking downward to find safe passage over our rough uneven ground, it was the airborne scent that first captured my attention.  Its subtle sweetness is unmistakable and when I walked into the scented air the existence of locust flowers was instantly recognized.  How their perfume can be so quickly recognized despite its lightness is a puzzle.  The visual statement of these sparkling white flowers is a rare treat.  The buzzing of hundreds of feeding bees is quite an experience.  Feeding bees are not likely to sting.  Full pollen baskets prevent the bees from taking the stinging posture and the abundant food stabilizes their good mood so nearness to happy bees can be an uncommon but enjoyable experience.

We planted both the locust and pine trees to form a screen between us and the new house that appeared after we had purchased our land.  The combination of the two species is working well.  Locust growth is rather open as these trees require full sunlight to sustain life.  The younger pines are filling in the desired visual screen behind the locusts.

When we first obtained this land, truckloads of compost were moved here from the village facility.  This locust tree grew up out of the resulting compost pile.  It now provides the shade for our garden and the lateness of its leaves lengthens the sunny period for our woodland plants.  For the next few days sitting on the stone wall under this tree will provide us with both shade and the many benefits that spring from locust flowers.

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