We've already had a bit of snow and some very cold days this month, but the afternoon of December 16 was relatively warm and sunny, and I took the opportunity that day to wander around outside. With such short days and long nights, and with mainly cold and snowy months ahead, I was especially looking out for signs of life as winter started to settle in.
Plants may be dormant now, but it's really interesting to see how some of the plants around here have gotten ready for next year's growing season. I transplanted Allegheny Monkey Flower (Mimulus ringens) into our front yard this fall, and beneath the dried stems from this year's growth, spiky purple shoots have already appeared:
The neighboring Cardinal Flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) produced several tiny plantlets along their flower stalks this year, and I tucked those stalks into the dirt. Now rows of baby Cardinal Flowers are waiting through these cold and dark times -- with green leaves intact -- to start growing in the spring:
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) also keeps its leaves through the winter, making a carpet with colors ranging from green to rusty orange:
The American Hazelnut shrubs have dangling catkins and little round buds that will grow and flower in the spring:
In the woods, this fern (I don't know the species yet) holds next year's fronds in coppery coverings at its center, looking like a small collection of coins:
These Common Milkweed seeds were ready to float off and start new plants, and after taking this picture I helped them along:
The Shagbark Hickory tree in our yard produced a large number of nuts this year (although strangely, most of the nuts I cracked open were empty) and a bird has stashed a hickory nut inside a crack in the neighboring Tulip Tree:
Because the weather was so warm on this day, I even saw a few insects out and about. This Honey Bee landed on some aster seedheads; I'm sorry, little bee, I don't think there are any flowers blooming around here right now:
A beetle (some sort of soldier beetle?) was climbing along Little Bluestem stalks:
The beetle even opened its wings a few times and flew a bit:
Finally, I watched a small caterpillar make its way up a Pawpaw stem and pause at a bud, where it seemed to nibble on the bud's outer layer:
It's nice to see signs of life in the middle of December, even as winter is settling in.
As I write this, 2021 is coming to a close, and 2022 is in sight. Here's to the new year! Who knows what 2022 will bring!