Waterless spring defies odds
Drought, fire and wildflowers

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Question: What’s the deal with the spring drought, and how to trees still green out without any water?

Spring is usually the sopping-wet season …

When rivers rise and flowers bloom, right?

Does this look like spring?

Normally, yes. Or at least that’s how it works in most parts of the country (i.e. Up North on the continent). April rains bring May flowers as they say, and dry soils predictably turn moist and muddy.

The swamp flips the normal spring convention on its head, but with a twist. The cypress trees of the swamp still green up each spring with the most verdant hue you’ll ever see, but don’t confuse the lush appearance with being wet. A closer inspection of the same cypress trees will reveal a rapid recession or absence of water at the base of its fluted trunks.

Dry cypress trees in a swamp? Isn’t a swamp supposed by a perpetually soggy place where alligators roam and wading birds hunt for fish? Isn’t dry land out of place?

Blooming wildflowers after a spring wildfire

Seasonal drought is actually normal in the swamp, and it peaks (or bottoms out) in April and May. The reason? Blame it on a combination of yawning daylight hours, rising temperatures, thirsty tree roots, and most of all the lack of rain. By early May, just before the summer afternoon showers begin again, as much as 90 percent (or more) of the swamp goes dry. The same cypress that turned green can quickly brown, not from drought, but from wildfires when they strike, with the size of the blazes largely being controlled by moisture levels in the swamp’s low spots, or as doused by chance rain events.

The blackened earth quickly turns green following a wildfire, punctuated by wildflowers and an eventual return of the summer rains.

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