Officially Spring is around the corner! This year the spring equinox is on Saturday, March 20th. Here in northeastern Nevada, this time of year can be tricky because overnights and mornings can be quite cold. However, as the northern hemisphere begins to be tilted more toward the sun, combined with the increased daylight hours, the afternoons can be quite delightful. This shift in temperatures and sunlight should put us on “daffodil watch”.
What is daffodil watch? That is when, as you drive around, you keep your eyes peeled for daffodils and when you see one, you point and shout with great exuberant joy, “daffodil!!!!”. This is what we do at Nevada Outdoor School because daffodils only show their stuff for a short period of time. The observation of a daffodil just brings us so much joy that some of us just can’t help but squeal with excitement out of respect and awe of nature.
The physical beauty of the daffodil is stunning, but the science behind the re-appearance year after year is what really makes us say, “yeah nature!”. The daffodil is in the genus Narcissus and is part of the Amaryllis family. There are many varieties of daffodils due to selective breeding, but all seem to announce the beginning of spring. The cool thing about daffodils is that they are planted in the fall, as a bulb, and bust out in spring, even through snow!
What is a bulb? A bulb is a ‘storage organ’ that is a stem made of layers of modified leaves that store nutrients. Roots will emerge out of the bottom of the bulb when conditions are right, and new growth will emerge from the top. Bulbs are considered dormant, which means temporarily inactive. They are not dead! Dormant is not dead! Plant bulbs are only one example of the many living things that utilize dormancy to overcome environmental stress or gather energy for future growth.
After enough energy has been gathered, and the environmental conditions are correct (sunlight, temperature, and moisture) we will witness the new growth as it emerges from the ground. All that time underground, in the dark and cold, important biological processes were occurring, we just couldn’t see them! And the results of all that underground work will become a beautiful display we get to observe. The bright colors and the sleek leaf-less stem is a sight to behold! As the foliage begins to yellow and fade, the bulb begins to gather energy for the next season, and returns to dormancy once more.
When we see a daffodil, we are witnessing the evidence of a beautiful cycle in nature. One that, as humans, we might be wise to learn from and begin to follow. There is time for gathering energy and time for display. Nature has an amazing way of balancing rest and growth. This spring, as you drive around, have fun with daffodil watch! Get outside, it is good for humans everywhere!