Twelve Seasons of Yellow Springs:
A calendar of events in the natural world
By Bill Felker
The landscape of the
Yellow Springs habitat, with its woodlands and wetlands, limestone gorges
and rolling prairie, the Little Miami River and the brooks and springs
of Glen Helen, is representative of the broader bio-region. No matter
when you choose to explore its walkways, bikepaths and parks, you will
be entering the temporal cycles not only of this special place but of
the greater Ohio Valley.
Winter: December 8 31
When all the leaves are down and the woods grow quiet for Early Winter,
the season of decorative berries begins. All around the village, fruits
stand out on the crab apple trees, the hawthorns, holly, honeysuckles,
rose bushes, and on vines of the bittersweet and euonymus.
Sparrow hawks arrive; they wait on the high wires, watching for mice in
the snowless fields. In the chilly afternoons, crane flies spin in the
When the days begin to lengthen on Dec. 26, the night shrinks at the rate
of a minute every 24 hours, and the solar year starts all over again.
Deep Winter: January 1 25
The sun rises higher in the sky each day, but average temperatures fall
to their lowest point of the year.
gUndaunted, foxes, skunks, opossums, raccoons, beavers and coyotes mate.
Owls are establishing their territories and nesting in the woods. Crows,
sparrows, tufted titmice and blue jays increase their activity. Juncos
begin their migratory activity by mid-January; they can often be seen
flocking by the
roadsides, gathering for their journey to Canada.
Pine trees are pollinating. In the warmest winters, sap runs in the maples.
Late Winter: January 26 February 18
Even the most bitter of Yellow Springs Januarys softens by the end of
its third week, and, in the traditional thaws of Late Winter, cardinals
begin their mating songs half an hour before dawn, the first robins come
to feed in the crab apple trees on Xenia Avenue, and bluebirds appear
in the Glen. Village sparrows, stimulated by the lengthening days, are
chattering near sunrise.
By Groundhog Day, the first snowdrops can be in bloom, and you may find
antlers of Glen Helens herd of white-tailed deer lying in the melting
Spring: February 19 March 31
In the middle of Februarys third week, Early Spring arrives in Yellow
Springs and its nature preserves. With milder weather come the first red-winged
blackbirds to the Jacoby wetlands. Skunk cabbage blooms there; mallards
and Canadian geese scout for nesting sites along river, and the very earliest
snow crocus opens in local gardens. Pussy willows emerge by this time
of the year, and hemlock, bittercress, ragwort and celandine grow back
along the creeks.
Winter wheat is greening in the fields outside of town, offering a patchwork
promise of April. By the middle of March, the earliest daffodils blossom
just as Glen Helens own flock of turkey vultures returns. Then bright
blue scilla peaks in the lawns, and question mark, tortoise shell and
cabbage butterflies come looking for nectar just as the first magnolia
Middle Spring: April 1 26
The raucous calls of the flicker and the gold breasts of the finches mark
April and Middle Spring in Yellow Springs. Walks in the North Glen will
yield some of the most welcome flowers of the year: hepatica, violet cress,
snow trillium, bloodroot, Virginia bluebells, Dutchman's britches, twinleaf,
toothwort and spring beauties. May apples are pushing through the mulch
too, and velvety wild ginger leaves unravel on the hillsides.
By the middle of April red toad trillium, trillium grandiflorum, yellow
trout lily, bellwort, wild geranium and delicate white rue anemone blossom
in the woods. Morel mushroom season begins when locusts, mulberries, ash,
tree of heaven and ginkgoes leaf out and pastures are golden with winter
cress and dandelions.
Across the hillsides, the canopy of leaves will be greening. In town,
early tulips, daffodils, windflowers and pushkinia open, following late
Marchs snow crocus. Bright yellow forsythia and cornus mas are in
full bloom, and pollen grows on the pussy willow catkins. Henbit, violets
and small-flowered buttercups bloom in the alleys, just when crab apples,
dogwoods, redbuds and cherry trees bloom.
Late Spring: April 27 May 25
By the end of April, the season of Late Spring comes to Yellow Springs.
In the woods, the undergrowth is full of garlic mustard, violet sweet
rocket, fire pink, rare golden seal, columbine, golden alexander, sweet
Cicely, daisies, yellow sweet clover and Solomons seal. Lilacs,
mock orange, buckeye trees and strawberries bloom. Iris, poppies and peonies
Red and white clover flower in the pasture. Blackberry and elderberry
bushes blossom by the roadsides. Meadow goats beard nods by the
When ruby-throated hummingbirds come for the flowers by the middle of
May, goslings hatch along the river. That is also the best season for
watching the dawn and dusk courtship rituals of the woodcock. Then strawberries
ripen by the time the woodland canopy of leaves is almost full, and the
heavy fragrance of locust and catalpa tree flowers fills the whole Miami
The earliest fireflies
glow in the grass, and spring crickets sing.
Summer: May 26 June 30
When the river goslings reach a third of their adult size (thats
about the end of May), then Yellow Springs enters Early Summer, and delicate
and the clustered snakeroot is full of golden pollen under the new canopy
of leaves. A few mulberries are ready to pick then, and timothy is ripe
Wild black raspberries are common along the bikepath and the roadsides
when the first yucca is ready to flower, and bright blue damsel flies
appear by the water willow in the streams and ponds.
Pink thistles and pale blue chicory brighten the freeways, and wheat is
turning gold in the fields. The second week of June adds day lilies and
Queen Annes lace to the waysides, then giant great mullein, crown
vetch, white and yellow sweet clover, elderberry bushes and smartweed.
Middle Summer: July 1 31
Middle Summer and July begin as the earliest field corn starts to tassel,
and the wheat, completely golden brown, is almost ready for harvest. Days
shorten for the first time since December. Katydids and stag beetles appear
at porch lights. Violet tall bell flowers and orange touch-me-nots bloom
in the woods. The rose of Sharon comes into flower, and the first black
walnuts start to fall. The summer apple harvest gets underway in orchards
around town, and farmers sell the very first sweet corn behind Kings Yard.
Woolly bear caterpillars, cicada song, milkweed pods and flakes of sycamore
bark designate the exact center of Middle Summer.
And when the evenings are full of cricket and katydid song, normal average
temperatures begin to fall. July is almost over.
Late Summer: August 1September 8
August is Late Summer in Yellow Springs, the time that blackberries ripen
along the bikepath and in the South Glen.
A Judas maple here and there turns orange in the village. Pods of the
touch-me-not burst along the Little Miami. The first hickory nuts, buckeyes,
acorns and Osage fruits are falling.
Fogs appear along the river before sunrise, and virgins bower, field
thistle, great blue lobelia, rose pinks and Japanese knotweed bloom. Cardinals
grow silent, but robins are clucking their migration signals in the honeysuckles
as the very first goldenrod becomes gold. Then wild plums and grapes are
ready for jam and jelly. Peaches come in at the local orchards.
Fall: September 9October 11
By the second week of September, giant puffball mushrooms are growing
in the woods at night, and the leaves in Yellow Springs are starting to
change color. By equinox, sycamores, locusts, elms, box elders, a few
maples, chinquapin oaks and red buds lose their dark summer green. Poison
ivy, sumac and Virginia creeper turn the fence rows red and gold. Ginkgo
leaves fade at the edges.
Middle Fall: October 12November 4
By the first of October, all the ash trees have become deep maroon or
pale orange. Middle October brings in all the maples, and the yellow witch
hazel flowers open. The colors of the whole forest converge by the 20th,
then the foliage suddenly falls.
The first or second week of November, the mulberries and ginkgoes shed
all at once. Throughout the pageant of the leaves, the wildflowers
beggarticks, hog peanuts, bur marigolds, zigzag goldenrod and asters
enter and exit their seasons. Augusts milkweed pods and cattails
burst in the wind, and the first juncos come to the bird feeders. Cedar
waxwings migrate down the river. Robins fill the Glen, then disappear
with the last of the vultures by Nov. 1. Woolly bear caterpillars intensify
activity in the low sun, and the last monarch butterflies fly to Mexico.
Late Fall and Second Spring: November
After the October witch hazels end their seasons, the floral year comes
to a close in Yellow Springs. South to the edge of the tropics, there
is no sequence after autumn except spring. The land has no response other
than to begin again.
Even before all the leaves come down, that commencement is underway. Henbit
and garlic mustard have sprouted now that the drought is over. Wood mint
grows new stalks. Water cress revives. Waterleaf slowly reappears along
the river. Aprils sweet Cicely, Mays sweet rockets, ragwort,
dock and poison hemlock, Junes cinquefoil, Julys avens and
caraway, Septembers zigzag goldenrod and small-flowered asters send
up fresh leaves. Sedum comes back, stalky from its canopied summer. Wild
rose bushes sprout new foliage. Moss thickens on rotting logs.
In mild Novembers, catchweed blooms. Cardinals briefly renew their late-winter
songs. Parsnips, violets, chickweed, celandine, dandelions, clover, sow
thistles, and even forsythia blossom; cabbage moths look for their nectar.
The grass continues to grow on the Glens paths, glowing in the low
sun. Winter wheat creates patches of bright green in the countryside.
In the swamps, skunk cabbage comes up again. In the garden, red knuckles
of rhubarb push to the surface.