my plan for the day was to bike down to the arnold arboretum1 in jamaica plain to check out the wintersweets and see if there were any other early season flowering trees like chinese plums (AKA japanese apricots).
i woke up around 9am, used the bathroom, took a shower, made some decaffeinated coffee, and heated up one of my blueberry muffins. i was researching the best bike route to get down to the arboretum. in the past i've either taken the subway, drove a car, or rode the motorcycle. i have however bicycled to the arboretum on two occasions: august 2011 when i explored the southwest bike corridor for the very first time, and then again may 2012 when i went exploring dorchester and roxbury. both times were via the southwest corridor, so that's what i was planning to do. both google maps suggested a different, more direct, route, that took me down south huntington to centre street. i modified it a bit so i would riding down the emerald necklace for much of the way once i cleared longwood. not only was it more direct, it gave me a chance to ride the emerald necklace, something i've never done before.
i left by 10:30am, google maps telling me it'd take 50 minutes to get there traveling 6.8 miles. sandy was of course nowhere to be seen, but since i was going out, i didn't really care much what she did today. since the roads were dry, i rode my fuji. the weather was nice on this official first day of spring, with temperature in the 40's but promises of 50's by the afternoon, under a mostly clear blue sky. i cut through harvard square (down quincy-dewolfe) to reach the charles river, where i took the memorial drive side bike path towards the direction of the BU bridge.
after crossing the bridge, i took essex-ivy-carlton, following the road until i got to longwood. i crossed the station, climbing steps with my bike to get myself onto the emerald necklace bike path. i rode south, crossing over at olmsted park to get onto the east side of the emerald necklace. i went down to jamaica pond, passed the boat house, before crossing the jamaicaway at the light to eliot street. i followed eliot down to south then onto custer right to the arboretum main entrance. i arrived by 11:15am, ahead of schedule.
most of the times i'm at the aboretum i'm only on foot; having a bike meant i could travel farther in less time, but it was also a hassle as i constantly had to keep an eye on it, or find a place to lock it up. plus biking up bussey hill was definitely more tiring than simply walking up.
one of the things that bloom this early in the season are pussy willows. i thought i was pretty well-versed in pussy willows but today i discovered some black pussy willows. if i didn't know better i assumed they were diseased. the black catkins also resemble hairy caterpillars.
another early season bloomers are the witch hazels. i've often heard that witch hazels are fragrant, but all the ones i've ever come across were unscented. however it was the smell that attracted me to red witch hazels, which i've never seen before. these were magic fire witch hazels, and unlike their yellow cousins, these definitely had a fragrance.
up on bussey hill was the whole reason why i traveled all the way down here for: to see the wintersweets. i saw them last may, but i didn't see any flowers. i was hoping to come back in the late winter - when they typically blossom - but never had the chance. maybe i'd get lucky and see some flowers today even though its fairly late in the flowering season. it took me a while to find them, until i realized they put up protection screens around the plants. i could only locate 2 new (2016) wintersweets last time, but this time found the 3rd older (1999) plant. i was surprised to find no activity, not even any signs of flowers. at most there were some early buds that looked to be leaves. i'll need to come back in a few more weeks and see what develops.
tree bark often times gets underappreciated, but you could make a catalog of all the different bark colors and shapes and come out with some interesting finds. the bark is also a way to identify trees; i often use it to differentiate between cherries and some other flowering trees.
i moseyed around the rest of the arboretum. the other thing i was hoping to find were prunus mume plants (japanese apricot AKA chinese plum). i should've checked at the main office and look through though plant catalog to see if they even had any, but i figured if they did, i would spot them immediately as they're one of the few flowering trees this time of the year. unfortunately i didn't find any, not even any flowering cherries, it's still too early in the season. i'll need to come back in a few more weeks.
the arnold arboretum has a whole other section that i've never visited called peters hill. supposedly many crabapples are planted there, so i decided to visit. if cherries hadn't even bloomed, there as no chance crabapples would be flowering either. i biked around, making a loop around the hill, climbing to the summit for a view of boston, before finally leaving, cutting back across the main arboretum.
i stopped at the cafe, where my father was finished making some fermented glutinous rice AKA jiuniang. it's actually more involved than i first realized. i ferment a whole 5 lbs. bag of glutinous rice requires using a set of industrial steamers to cook the rice first before sprinkling in the special jiuniang yeast to produce the fermentation. if i made this at home, i could only do it in small batches.