Among the many signs of summer’s end, the maturing of the jumpseed plant is one of the more dependable. In full bloom, it attracts clusters of cabbage white butterflies that play and court around it. And when its inconspicuous white flowers have turned to brittle seeds and jump to the ground as you run your thumb and forefinger up their stem, then the first week of Early Fall has arrived.
When jumpseeds jump, bright patches of scarlet sumac and Virginia creeper mark the fencerows, and streaks of gold appear on the silver olive bushes. Hickory nutting season opens as sweet-corn time winds down. Black walnuts already cover the ground under the larger walnut trees. Burrs from tick trefoil stick to pants legs and stockings. Lizard's tail drops its leaves into the creeks and sloughs. Beside the deer paths of the forests, the undergrowth is tattered and cluttered with the remnants of the year.
Firefly larvae flicker in the grass, the adult fireflies gone. Red-headed woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds, house wrens, scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, Eastern bluebirds and black ducks migrate. Cardinal songs are rare in the morning, but the rasping and buzzing and chirping of katydids and crickets fill the nights Sometimes great swarms of dragonflies migrate across the land.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of Early Fall. In the meantime, Go outside at night and listen for the insect chorus. They they tell you the jumpseeds are jumping.