Wind in the Willows, and Cottonwoods, Alders, and Birches

By , May 8, 2010

This is a most fragrant time of year in Southeast Alaska. Our few hardwoods, willow, cottonwood, alder, and birch, flower in pendulous, light green or reddish blossoms that smell heavenly. It smells like summer to us, particularly on rainy days when the humidity increases the aroma. I love to walk out to the beach on a cloudy morning and soak up the fragrance along with the view, while enjoying the softness of the air. It’s so relaxing, yet invigorating.

The spruce trees are beginning to show growth at the end of their branches. Spruce tips start with a papery cap, which they will lose about the time the pollen is ready to disperse. When that happens, it almost becomes problematic—there’s so much of it that it will literally color the water in the fjord, and settle as a yellow dust on everything. If the weather’s dry, I need to periodically wash it off the solar panels. Luckily, it smells sweet, too.

The cottonwood blossoms can be annoying when they drop, as they are extremely sticky. No one wants to park a car under them! Our yard in Juneau, surrounded by a couple of tall cottonwoods, got covered by blossoms, which we called “sticky ickies.” We had to wash them off the soles of our shoes to avoid tracking them onto our carpets, because cleaning them is very difficult.

We have no cottonwoods or willows in our yards here, yet there are trees close enough to lend their sweetness to our air, helped by a gentle wind. That’s the best way to enjoy them.

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