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GRANDMA SAYS: Getting to the root of the rain

Oak before ash, only a splash. The ash tree branch in the foreground is well behind the buds of the columnar oak behind it. Leanne MacArthur Matthews made this observation on her property in Woodburn, N.S.
Oak before ash, only a splash. The ash tree branch in the foreground is well behind the buds of the columnar oak behind it. Leanne MacArthur Matthews made this observation on her property in Woodburn, N.S. - Contributed

I miss a lot of things about the farm: the quiet, the openness, the smells and the fact that things happened, as Grandma always said, "in due time."

Regardless of when we thought it was time to tap the maple trees, cut the hay or harvest the corn, nature decided for us.

The seasons came and left, and everything got done, but not necessarily on our schedule. Over the years, I learned a lot from that, but I digress.

spring, when the soil started to warm, Grandma paid close attention to which trees were first to bud; she believed that the oak and ash trees could tell you something about how wet the upcoming season would be. According to popular belief, the order in which these trees bud holds the answer.

As was so often the case with oral history, a rhyme was made up to more easily remember the information: “Oak before ash, only a splash; Ash before oak, we’re in for a soak.”

wasn't the first to turn to these trees for a long-range forecast. Scientists at the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology in England have records that date back to the 18th century. According to their data, the race between oak and ash was far more equal last century. In the 1900s, the oak was ahead only about 60 per cent of the time. More recently, the oak has charged ahead, budding before the ash almost 90 per cent of the time.

So, let’s get to the root of this one. The ash tree has shallow roots and relies on moisture from winter’s snow to set its buds. Oak trees, on the other hand, have a deep root system and do better in drier conditions – not having to rely on spring snowmelt. Generally speaking, our overall snow cover has gone down over the past couple of decades.

In the case of the budding trees, it seems to be more of a reaction than a forecast…but don’t tell Grandma that!

I love that so many of you observe these things and submit your photos. Leanne MacArthur Matthews points out that the columnar oak in the background is well ahead of the branch from the ash tree in the foreground on her property in Woodburn, N.S. Oak before ash - only a splash.

has been a dry spring. I also predict above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation this summer.

Time will tell ... 



Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network

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