Spring in the forest – what is happening there?

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These days we can see the first rays of sun after the grey winter – spring is about to begin. Nevertheless, the sight of the greenwood with its bare and brown trees still leaves a wintry impression. However, appearances are deceptive: also in the forest, spring begins. But what is happening with flowers, trees and animals of the forest after the coldest time of the year? This and more questions we want to answer for you in the following blog.

HOW CAN PLANTS SURVIVE DURING WINTER?

Different from animals, plants cannot move location throughout their lives – even when temperatures drop. Nonetheless, plants have been able to adapt to the environment and to unfavourable situations, that usually occur in winter. During this season, the plants are lacking heat, light and water, since part of the soil freezes.  Therefore, a large number of trees lose their leaves in autumn in order to use less water. Other plants have subterranean organs like rhizomes, tuberous roots or bulbs, that serve as food deposits and help the plants to last during winter. There are also plants that die in autumn and only their seeds survive the cold.

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Some plants can bloom even though there is still snow

HOW DO PLANTS KNOW WHEN IT IS THE RIGHT TIME TO BLOOM?

At this point not only the intensity of light or temperature play an important role, but it is the plant itself that has special abilities to combine its own factors of control with external factors.

These factors especially include the exposure to sunlight. There is no optimal blooming time that is right for all plants, because each one has developed a system to adapt to the environment. However, one can distinguish three ways of proceeding: apart from plants neutral to exposure times, there are also several plants that bloom when days get longer. On the other hand there are plants that bloom when days get shorter.

Plants use the sun, especially because in spring the rays of the sun can reach the ground more easily through the leafless branches. During this time, the forest is as colourful as it gets, given that later leaves grow and the sun can barely reach the ground. This is also the reason why later there is more sun on the edges of the forests or forest paths, where there are fewer trees.

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In spring, all plants awake from their state of rest

Apart from this, it is interesting to know that even within a country, spring does not necessarily begin at the same time. For example there are big differences between the south and north of Spain: in regions like Andalusia, Murcia and Extremadura, temperatures begin to increase at the end of February while in the Pyrenees or in the mountains of Léon the beginning of spring might not start until March. For this reason one can also say that there exists “las primaveras de España” (“springs of Spain”).

WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH THE LIVING BEINGS OF THE FOREST IN SPRING?

In spring not only the plants that become more active, but also the animals of the forest come out of their hiding places. Many types of birds begin with the construction of their nests, the breeding season begins and migratory birds return. The variety of flowers attracts insects like beetles, bees and butterflies, that later on pollinate them.

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In the forest we can perceive spring with all our senses

Depending on the type of pollination, flowers on trees may have different appearances. Trees that are pollinated by insects, such as the horse chestnut tree, attract insects by the smell of their flowers. The smell indicates that inside the blossoms there is nectar. At the same time that insects touch the flowers to reach the nectar, pollen gets stuck on their body. As soon as the insects arrive at other flowers to get their nectar, some of the pollen grains that are stuck on their body, fall down and pollinate the flower. This process keeps repeating itself at every flower the insects touch and like that insects can ensure the pollination of the flowers.

The blossom on trees that are pollinated by the wind, for example the beech or the oak tree, are more modest. The male flowers produce a large number of pollen grains that will be carried by the wind until they reach the female flowers and there they stick together.  The perfect time for this type of pollination is spring. Some pollen has to be carried a long distance in order to pollinate another tree of the same species. This is possible at the beginning of spring because in this period the trees are still leafless and so there is no foliage that prohibits the pollen from reaching the other flowers.

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… By the way: march 21 was the International Forest day and therefore another reason for a spring walk through the forest!

 

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