I’ve been watching an aspen in my front yard this spring, and sending data to the National Phenology Network. (That’s phenology, the study of recurring plant and animals phases, not phrenology.) We’ve had warm weather, cold weather, and windy weather, and blooming violets, crocuses, and dwarf irises, but the aspens haven’t done much.
Until now. My aspen is blooming. Kind of.
There aren’t any leaves yet, but this morning I noticed some things that reminded me of the fuzz on pussy willows back in Maine. So this afternoon, I took a closer look, and picked one. And… I think that must be the aspen’s flower. It looks like a fuzzy caterpillar.
I don’t know why I thought the leaves would come out first. They don’t for pussy willows, though most of the native shrubs in the pinyon-juniper woods leaf out first, and flower when it gets a bit warmer. But those shrubs have flowers that are pollinated by… I think bees and hummingbirds. The aspens appear to be pollinated by the wind (which is especially strong today), though they mostly propagate by root suckers. I hope I’m not going to be allergic to aspen pollen, now that I live amongst them.
The NPN data sheets ask whether the tree has male or female flowers. I have no idea how to tell. Anyone know?