Nature Notes – A time for daffodils and tulips

By Jim Gilbert

Narcissus is the scientific name for the well-known spring blooming plants called daffodils and jonquils.

All three names are used indiscriminately for the perennial plant that comes up each year from a bulb and has a star of petals surrounding a trumpet-like structure. Daffodil is the name most often used in Minnesota. The flowers come in yellow, white, yellow and white, or yellow and orange.

Daffodils are native to Europe and Asia. Most grow to a height of about two feet, and all have blade-like leaves. The bulbs are planted in early fall, about six inches deep. They like sunny locations or partial shade, and moist soil that has good drainage. The bulbs can be planted between shrubs, under small trees, in gardens, and also in lawn areas. Do not cut the lawn until the daffodil leaves have died down or the bulbs will be weakened and future flowering impaired. There is no need to lift daffodil bulbs after bloom time. Just enjoy the blossoms each spring.

The tulip has been the most popular spring-flowering bulb for centuries.

Bulbs are planted in late October into November; placed six to eight inches below ground level in a sunny garden location. There are thousands of varieties, some of which can thrive in the same spot for 20 years, though most remain productive and healthy for just a few years.

Most tulip plants have solitary, single, bell-shaped flowers that are red, pink, white or yellow. Bluish-green leaves are clustered around the base of the plants.

The Dutch have been in the tulip bulb business for more than 400 years, but tulips did not originate there, nor from Turkey where the Dutch go theirs. The flowers are native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia. Tulip is the Turkish word for turban.


What’s happening outdoor now?

We are beginning the emerald-green time, with many tones of green and the lush look to the landscape. Trees and shrubs have started to leaf out, and forest floors are dotted with over a dozen species of blooming wildflowers such as bloodroots and cut-leaved toothworts.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks, ruby-throated hummingbirds and house wrens are returning. Also look for Baltimore orioles. They winter in Central America, and arrive in numbers the first two weeks in May. These orioles have a strong homing instinct and often return year after year to nest in the same yard and even the same tree.

Orioles are easily attracted to feeding stations offering grape jelly, orange halves or sugar water. Expect to see the first tiny Canada goose goslings swimming with their parents and grazing on fresh green grasses. Northern cardinals, black-capped chickadees, eastern bluebirds and wood ducks are among the birds now incubating eggs.

Leopard, wood and western chorus frogs add their captivating vocalizations to the spring air. Young gray squirrels may leave their nests. Red fox kits come out of their dens to play in the sunlight.

The ice covers left Swede Lake near Watertown on April 19, Lake Waconia April 23, and Lake Minnetonka April 24. At this time most northern Minnesota lakes are ice-free.


On May 8 a year ago

We had a mostly cloudy day with a low temperature of 58 and a high of 78 degrees F. Lawns were being mowed, forsythia shrubs and magnolias bloomed nicely, and some farmers were working the soil and planting. Our neighbors, Joe and RaeAnn Tewinkel, pulled their first rhubarb and made sauce (this year April 22). The first American toads were heard trilling. Migrating scarlet tanagers appeared.