Speaking of Nature: Something is afoot — the unusual weather continues

  • One of the area’s most ubiquitous wildflowers, Danielson finds the color of chicory flowers to be hypnotizing. For The Recorder/Bill Danielson

  • Taken last week, the columnist said this is one of his best flower photos of the year. It shows the stamens and pistils of a cultivated morning glory that continues to bloom near my deck. For The Recorder/Bill Danielson

  • Bill Danielson goes out of his way to encourage maiden pink to grow in his yard, and as late as last Wednesday, they were still blooming. For The Recorder/Bill Danielson

  • Bill Danielson

For The Recorder
Sunday, October 29, 2017

The unusual weather continues. Over the past week, I have been surprised again and again by the warmth of the weather we are experiencing. The daytime low temperatures have been relatively normal for this time of year, with the exception of last Tuesday, when it was 65 degrees and raining at 5 a.m. That morning temperature was higher than the daytime high temperatures that I have recorded at my house for the past six years.

The daytime high temperatures from last week were an average of 9.6 degrees higher than the daytime highs that I’ve recorded for the same dates over the past six years. I fully acknowledge that my personal observations are measurements of microclimate conditions, at best, but when taken as a whole, they do suggest that strange events continue to unfold this year. Something is afoot!

When we think of autumn colors, we normally think of the warm end of the visual spectrum. Fall foliage is dominated by reds, oranges and yellows that can sometimes be brilliant and other times more muted and subtle. And, let us not forget the sumptuous caramel browns that round out the seasonal palate. These colors abound in decorative items found in our houses, such as dish towels, place mats, coffee mugs and tablecloths.

The human eye is often transfixed by the odd or unusual, which is why I have been so sensitive to colors, like blue and pink over the past week. They are difficult to find, but this stretch of warm weather has certainly nurtured them in the form of wildflowers that continue to bloom late into the season. Like little treasures, each blossom I find is as lovely as the finest jewel.

The maiden pink (Dianthus deltoides) is a plant that I have a personal affinity for. I first encountered it in the 1990s when I found it growing by the side of a road in Ashfield, MA. Ever since then I have searched for it, but rarely found it. Thus, you can imagine my delight when I discovered it growing in my own yard. Over the years I have encouraged it to the best of my ability and this very summer I decided to allow a patch of it to grow in the middle of my lawn. As of last week there were still a few blossoms to be found.

Chicory (Chichorium intybus) is a flower that is far easier to find. You’ve probably seen it more times than you realize in places that might not even register in the conscious mind with great ease. You gaze out your car window while sitting at a red light and look right past it. You push a grocery cart through a parking lot and pass it without realizing. Chicory is a specialist in exploiting the nooks and crannies that humans are so good at producing and it is so ubiquitous that it can sometimes become invisible.

Finally, there is a plant called field bindweed (Convovulus arvensis) that is another rare and wonderful find. Growing like a vine that will climb grasses and forbs, the field bindweed produces elegant funnel-shaped flowers that are either pure white or dusted with a blush of light pink. In our cultivated gardens we would find the flowers of morning glory plants to be quite similar, though the cultivated blossoms are usually larger and more vibrant in their coloration. Morning glories do “escape” from time to time, so they may turn up almost anywhere that people have been.

I have found all three of these flowers blooming within a stone’s throw of my back door in the past few days. They will continue to bloom until the frost puts an end to their efforts, but given the odd nature of the weather that may be for weeks to come. I’ll be sure to keep the pages of my red journal filled with the details.

Bill Danielson has worked for the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, and the Massachusetts State Parks. He has been a professional writer and nature photographer for 19 years and he also teaches high school biology and physics. Visit www.speakingofnature.com for more information, or go to Speaking of Nature on Facebook.