Phenology and Blackberry Winter

Published 1:34 pm Wednesday, May 6, 2020

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There are things called Locust, Redbud, Dogwood winter and now the time is approaching for another cool down, Blackberry winter.

Simply put, this is a cold spell that happens to run in conjunction with the flowering of the Blackberry.

This happens early to mid May and many old timers believe it is winter’s last hurrah. Farmers would always wait until the blooming of the Blackberry to begin planting gardens because after these bloom fully the chance of frost is greatly reduced.

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The belief that blooming Blackberries and other signs signify planting times are just part of a big picture dealing with signs that our grandfathers often relied on before weather reports and technology.

Some other examples of planting by the signs include other plants and trees blooming, migratory bird sightings, noticing temperature swings and even moon phases.

By studying these signs farmers could avoid loss of crops and increase the yield ensuring family survival. The flowering of the Blackberry is just a small portion of the larger picture.

Looking at what East Tennessee has already been through we can safely say that we have endured much throughout the COVID-19 weeks and a few of these “winters” have came and gone including Locust winter, Redbud winter, Dogwood winter and now all we like is Blackberry and some will argue Cotton britches winter in late May to early June.

Whippoorwill winter is actually observed as well but in 2020 timing seems to be off as the Whippoorwill song has done been heard in the early morning and late afternoons.

The scientific term for using nature’s signs is phenology. Other examples of phenology include studying when a bird nests, when leaves start turning colors in the fall and when people start sneezing from allergies.

Phenology is all about nature and it’s cyclical patterns.

Many scientist believe that we humans are affecting the natural cycle of things negatively by our day to day lives and promote radical change while others say climate has been changing since the beginning of time and all patterns are cyclical. Our old timers would not seem to care as they would still be using these signs to their benefit still today.