Friday, April 18, 2008
April 15th, I saw the first butterflies of the year, velvety brown and glowing with sunlight. Glimpses were quick and fleeting, prompting me to resort to a field guide to get any kind of detail beyond cream and brown. Mysteries beyond the blue dot count were resolved--Mourning Cloak butterflies get their jump start on spring by overwintering in cracks and crevasses. Their ability to generate body heat by shivering allows them to creep out of hiding to find a patch of sunlight for further warming.
The round-lobed hepatica performs a similar feat; it's living leaves persist through the winter. Under an insulation of snow, it lies ready and waiting to glean energy from the first shafts of sunlight to reach its leaves in the spring thaw. Taking full advantage, flowers were up and ready by April 14th just a few short days after its first appearance amidst a sea of slush and ice.