Looduskalender in Vikerraadio: How birches seed

Submitted by Looduskalender on Thu, 09.08.2018 - 22:06

The author, Kristel Vilbaste, also presents texts in Vikerraadio

Photos: Arne Ader and Vello Keppart

Translation into English by Maret

Estonian text posted 26.07.2018


Birch catkins


Did you notice, how toward the end of last week birches suddenly turned yellow? Normally at this time of the year birches get just yellow streaks in their green dos.

Some birches are already totally autumn-yellow. That, however, does not mean, that somehow the autumn will arrive earlier, it just means that birches are very sensitive to drought and water shortage. Drought is forcing some trees to drop their yellow leaves already.

Also the bird cherry (aka hackberry) is already autumnally red, we can find the first deep-red leaves on the footpaths and the trees themselves look unexpectedly bare. The bird cherry is the first tree to show us the signs of fall.

But returning to birches, have you noticed anything else happening to them? Or rather under them? When birches grow by ponds, just look at the water surface under those trees  -  its covered with a thick yellow carpet, that consists of thousands of tiny yellow birch seeds. If a week ago a few of the birch catkins were still green, then this week all the trees should have dropped their seeds.

The city gardeners definitely have more work to do, because this year the birches dropped an extraordinary amount of seeds.

Maybe the trees can somehow sense, that a great many of their relatives have been cut down in forests, parks and alleys and are trying to compensate? In our forests, birches are the first trees to grow in recent clearings.

When you pick up birch seeds and observe them closely, you will notice, that the tiny 0.5 centimetre wide yellowish-beige seed has the shape of a cross, or it rather reminds me a little of a migrant bird, one, that is setting out to really change the world.

It also reminds me a bit of an ancient Nordic rune sign, that was used as protection against evil.

Vihm on uhunud kaseseemned teeserva.

Rain has washed the birch seeds onto the roadside.

But it’s really worth peaking into the forest right now, as particularly in places that have had thundershowers you can already find mushrooms, e.g. birch boletes and woolly milkcaps.

But we are  going to have a full moon on Friday night, so we may look forward to a bigger change in weather and even some tornadoes.

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