Harbinger of Spring, the Hazel Alder
You wouldn’t expect to find shrubs blooming around Otter Pond in the dead of winter, but for the Hazel Alder plant, that’s exactly what happens. These hardy trees can bloom as early as the beginning of February, when sub-freezing temperatures are the norm. This unusually warm winter has been no exception.
The dangling catkins are the male part of the flower, and the red buds along the stems are the female flowers. I made these images on February 21st, on a frosty morning. These hardy trees grow close to water, as you can see in the image below of Otter Pond. The Hazel Alder are the brownish bushes growing along the banks of the pond.
Unlike their close cousins, the American Hazelnut, these plants produce small pinecone-like seeds that remain on the stems for entire year. Both are in the birch family.