By Maria Padhila
Once again, I noticed on a run through the woods that there were tulip poplar flowers under my feet. They’re blooming early again.
Tulip poplars are tall, broad, covered with wide leaves, a great provider of shade in the canopies of the DMV parks. Because they’re so big, and because their flowers are mostly green (though they have lovely yellow and pink or even bright orange features) it’s really easy not to notice them. You often see them only after they’ve fallen to the ground. The cherry trees are as showy as a general at a state dinner, the dogwoods bloom right at eye level, redbuds are neon ravers, and the magnolias are just plain huge.
But it’s from the tulip poplar that the bees in this area get enormous amounts of nectar. I never thought that bees would fly that high — you think of bees as on a par with the flowers you see around you in the garden — but they head for the tops of the trees and gather it from the flowers. The flowers are so full of nectar that it drips from the cuplike petals. If you were a kid who ran around a lot in the woods, they were one of your food sources along with the honeysuckle (invasive, where the poplars are native).
But as the researcher in this NASA article noted, the trees are blooming earlier each year. This is messing up the bees, and so it’s messing us up, too. I feel like it messes up my own rhythms to see these flowers more in May than in June. Two years back, when I first started noticing it, I wrote about it:
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