Last week, late in February, it was nearly 70F in Ithaca, NY. Buds were breaking, as were temperature records. I heard a lecture yesterday that projected that this spring would be 2-3 weeks early compared to 2012, which previously held the record as the earliest spring in recent decades. In 2012, I watched a monarch butterfly lay an egg on a milkweed in Ithaca on May 5th! A full 5 weeks before typical. This year I expect them in April.
But on March 3rd, winter was back for our second winter walk. We tromped through the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s Stevenson Preserve, northwest of Treman State Park. Twelve of us, spanning undergraduate field ecology students and our leader, Emeritus Prof. Peter Marks, joined for a blistery yet blissful afternoon.
We saw at least three oak species at the site, red, white and chestnut: Quercus rubra, Q. alba, and Q. montana. Somewhat puzzling, however, were a few oaks with confusing characteristics. By the shape of acorns, bark furrows, some leaf traits (shinyness, pubescence in the vein axils), and the color of inner bark, some trees didn’t clearly fit Q. rubra. Perhaps eastern black oak, Quercus velutina, was present, either in pure form or introgressed with Q. rubra. Overall the community type of this site fit Peter’s scheme as a “Pine-Hemlock type” forest.