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When butterflies appear, spring picks up speed, the number of new plants increasing every day even though the air is cool. Whenever butterflies emerge, hepatica, harbinger of spring, and twinleaf are pushing out. Toad trillium and Dutchman's britches are ready to open. The foliage of wild geranium, clover, and columbine is growing. September's zigzag goldenrod is two inches long. Leaves of the golden Alexander are an inch across. Scarlet cup mushrooms swell in the dark.
All the leaves and fungi and butterflies are signs that the western sandhill cranes are migrating through the Rocky Mountains and the eastern cranes are moving up through Ohio. The road to Savannah is green with leaves half emerged. Wisteria is fragrant along the Georgia coast, and fields of rice show off their purple blossoms. In Alabama, it's time for redbud trees and pears to bloom. On the outskirts of New Orleans, winter cress is going to seed, and huge, squat yellow thistles grow beside the roads; in the French Quarter, azaleas and camellias are wide open, and yellow day lilies and the crepe myrtles are flowering.
Next week on Poor Will's Almanack: notes for the first week of middle spring. In the meantime, watch golden forsythia flowers to open, the passageway to Middle Spring.