Eugene Weekly : It’s About Time : 4.9.09

By David Wagner

Fringe Cup

MarcApril is the busiest month of the year from a plant’s point of view. Day length is changing fast, getting longer and longer on the summer side of the equinox. Bursts of sun and plenty of rain pumps rapid growth. All the energy stored in roots, rhizomes, and bulbs is emerging every day in an intense, slow dance of sun worship.

 Woodland herbs move fast now, keeping just ahead of the trees above them. Once the trees’ leafy canopy fills in, little light is left for the woodland floor dwellers. The tall larkspur, bleeding heart, fringe cup and maianthemum lilies, having pushed up slowly the past few months, now unfurl and jump up to offer flowers to foraging insects. More flowers bloom this month than any other save May.

 Bumble bees are out early, the queens having hibernated. No waiting on  the first day of nectar season. The leaves of the plants feed newly hatched caterpillars of butterflies. On up the food chain, nesting song birds swoop in to take advantage of the flush of insects taking advantage of the flowers taking advantage of the sun. Hawks swoop in to join the feast of spring.

 Sunny day excitement makes it hard not to get ahead of your garden sense, planting things too soon. Peas and garlic should be in, but hold off on those tomatoes and peppers. The last frost of the season is towards the end of this month and soil will take another two months to warm up.


David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for more than 30 years. He teaches mosses and is president of the Eugene Natural History Society. He may be reached at