The winter in Central Texas rarely gets the white of the north or the brown and tan of the high plains. It is green all year round. The winter greens are dark. The ash juniper, called cedar around here, is dark green, shading to black until we have a frost. Then it is covered with rusty red pollen, and we all get cedar fever. Some folks get an actual temperature but most just get itchy eyes, a runny nose, and a yukky feeling. For others, like this writer, it means using my inhaler, staying indoors and, like the rest, a runny nose. The pollen bothers my asthma.
The other tree that stays green is the live oak. In fall and winter, its oval shiny leaves are dull, dust covered and dark. They drop in the spring, really, they do.
Walking in the meadow among the trees I realize, spring has arrived here. The shades of green are amazing. The first are a bit pale, like the yellowish greens of the walnut leaves. Others show shading of greens or even almost chartreuse, but some of our oaks, like the scarlet or red oak, actually show red rims on the tiny leaves as the burst out of the buds. Some of the vegetation with the red edges warns you. It is poison ivy, shiny green leaves edged in deep red. If I have on gloves, I yank out all I can. My daughter is very sensitive to this beautiful but dangerous vine.
The cedar elms are the brightest and the fastest to coat their thin twigs with brilliant green ovals that expand in size almost before your eyes. From one day to the next, that view out the window is shadowed, then blocked by the leaves on the tree outside. The ash trees and the mesquite slowly put on their leaves. The tiny sprouts slowly unroll and grow into greens that contrast with the dark of the cedar behind them.
I have been told by a long time resident that the mesquite does not get nipped by the frost like most other trees, but I think that is a folk tale. I know that farmers of the peach orchards out west of us don’t get too excited about a late frost. It thins the blooms, so they don’t have to thin the fruit. Some say you can plant if the pecan is putting on leaves, but many trust the mesquite. Personally, I wait until the days are warm for a couple of weeks before I get excited about tomatoes plants and squash seeds.
Those live oaks are putting on a show of colors right now. They have catkins of a yellowish, orange color dumping yellow pollen all over the countryside. The leaves are turning tan among the dark green and dropping off as the buds of the new leaves grow from the twigs. The ground is soon covered by the leaves. They are small, oval, and tough. I have been told one should leave them on the ground around the trees because it feeds the tree. That may be true, but I doubt leaving them on the driveway or the sidewalk will help the trees. The new leaves are deep green and shiny.
Walking among the trees is a celebration of the color green, dozens of shades, spring joy.