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Poor Will's Almanack: June 18 - 24

purple lupine flowers in a field at sunset
Lupines

Solstice marks the end of early summer in much of the nation, but time is also space; movement and distance can take the season backwards or forwards, allowing what was and still will be to ride the hinge of the sun’s declination.

North in Maine, azaleas and columbine are still bright. Lupines hold in Bar Harbor. Foxglove and privet are holding on in Bangor, strawberries just ripening. Through the valleys of Vermont, the wheat is deep green. Parsnips are opening in New Hampshire as they go to seed along the Ohio River. In upstate New York, catalpas are still flowering, and peonies are still in bloom.

The flora of the upper Midwest reaffirms the late spring and early summer of the Northeast. The blossoms of mock orange are still fragrant in Minneapolis. Multiflora roses and the petals of blackberries repeat Indianapolis in May. Cottonwood cotton is drifting across the arboretum in Madison, Wisconsin. The thistles are stronger, the hemlock fresher, cattails more delicate and flushed with pollen all across the northern plains.

West in the Rocky Mountains, lupines are in full bloom at 4,000 feet, and lilies and early iris are coming in above 6,000 feet. In Chicago, fields of dandelions and spring beauties at 7,000 feet. At 8,000 feet, the heartleaf arnica, like a yellow bloodroot, pushes Middle Atlantic almost to the end of March.

Then down toward the Pacific, the landscape collapses forward toward Pennsylvania time. Cow parsnips, yarrow, moth mullein, yellow sweet clover, meadow goat’s beard, milkweed, and great mullein line the roads to Tillamook and the ocean.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the transition week to Middle Summer. In the meantime, watch the flowers in your yard or along your commute: they tell the exact time of year.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.