Another sign of spring: Backhoes

Another sign of spring in Needham is that you’ll be driving along and do a doubletake because suddenly, there’s an empty lot and a backhoe where there used to be an older house and a bunch of trees. Or depending on your timing, maybe they’re sawing all the trees down, or a big machine is biting the roof off of a little house.Teardown empty lot

Central Ave trees missing New construction on Charles River St One by one, the little houses are replaced by big ones. Sometimes the razed houses are ugly little houses and occasionally they’re charming, large, or architecturally significant. Sometimes it’s just a big estate of mostly woods carved into a subdivision. When we moved here I assumed all the woods was the happy result of zoning and conservation, but I was wrong.

First sign of spring: Skunk Cabbage

Skunk Cabbage in black swampskunk cabbage sproutsSkunk Cabbage and oak leaves

The skunk cabbage has been up for weeks. It came up through the ice and snow—skunk cabbage flowers make their own heat, so that the temperature inside the sculptural spathe is considerably warmer than the surrounding air. You can see in these shots that some of the tips got frostbitten. Now that everything is melted, this marsh looks black and primordial, with green and wine-colored fingers reaching up through the muck. Native to eastern North America.

I first heard the peepers on April 5. It’s been a long winter—last year the peeper debut was March 28, the year before was March 12. This afternoon at Ridge Hill, they were dazzlingly loud. It was fantastic. The winter forest roaring back to life!

Eastern Skunk Cabbage, Polecat Weed, Swamp Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

Bonus picture: this is the kind of action that immediately follows sloshing around in the swamp. Lucy with a stick