Earthworms’ Castings: The Reign of Blossoms

Catalpa Blossom

By Jean Ponzi

Before they leaf, trees burst with bloom, keeping springtime crowned in blossoms.

Missouri trees flower palest pink, rose, lilac and magenta, but I think white is our spring’s loveliest color.

Serviceberry starts the show, sometimes in March, always by first days of April. This native species is an ideal street tree replacement for Bradford Pear, which has become a problem species. Their common name “June Berry” anticipates fruit that birds and human taste buds prize, this tree’s early summer promise. Their snowy clusters scent spring air, soon to flutter into memory.

The Dogwood cross of creamy petals unfolds around a blood-brown heart, symbol of vernal holy days that passionately celebrate life renewed. When warming is at last assured, dogwoods lace our forests, living lights beaming through still-leafless trees.

Our yard is full of Black Locusts and Black Cherries, dark-barked pillars of a living canopy. They are prolific bloomers witah persistent offspring.

The cherries blossom first. Long drooping bottlebrushes whisk the breeze, a spicy counterpoint to bird songs.

Locust blooming nights are enchantment, well awaited every year. Grape-like bud clusters form as thorny branches disappear amid fluttering leaflets. Days pass – sunny, rainy, grey then blue – while the white magic of locust flowers takes its own ripening time. Then rainfall drums an incantation, breaks the spell of waiting, and blossoms burst open in a riot of scent, bewitching senses. For a few brief nights I breathe myself dizzy.

The year we went to Italy, from Earth Day into mid-May, I was resigned to miss the locust evenings. It seemed a fair trade, sacrifice of prime St. Louis springtime for a taste of timeless Florentine pleasures. On a hot night, friends retrieved us, tired and fulfilled, from the airport. A cloudburst had the city steaming. Car stopped, legs stretched, and we were drenched in fruity fragrance. This was the night the locusts bloomed! Later than in many years, the sweetest homecoming.

Spring winds bring a brilliant blizzard, sifting down like locust snow. White drifts blow along sidewalks, through the gutters, over cars and streets and everything moving. Waking from her nap in the grassy shade, our dog shakes off a dotty spritz. Faded, papery petal scraps scatter throughout the house.

This is the rain of blossoms.

Last in spring’s reign, Catalpa blooms. These huge-leaved, shapely trees grow gleaming white corsages. Catalpa flowers are giant trumpeting ruffled cups with sunset-colored centers. Every tree in springtime’s lineage takes their turn to crown the scene, white on greening, but our catalpas seem enormous, with their natural might so expanded with blooms.

One night’s storm scatters the catalpa flowers. We need rain this time of year, but when it blows in heavy and fast, rain can shake spring right out of the trees, a month before Summer Solstice. I tiptoe through the long grass, not yet mowed. Purple sandals get a soaking from fallen ruffles.

Through the darkness comes – surprise! – a first-time voice in our city haven. Tiny troubadour of springtime, one loud tree frog, creaking his hopes for a summertime family.

The fragrant reign of white bows low, making way for growing abundance. We welcome Green, Queen of Life!

Join Jean Ponzi and guests for enviro-conversations. Pick up her Earthworms podcast from KDHX St. Louis Independent Media. www.kdhx.org. Green and strong for 34 years!