Fall crocuses

This weekend, mere steps from the spot where I saw the spring’s first crocuses, I spotted the first wan crocuses of autumn. Yes, crocuses and other presumably “spring” flowers sometimes bloom a second time at summer’s end, spurred by the stimulus of dwindling daylight. Right now, with darkness arriving earlier each evening, we have roughly the same number of daylight hours as we did in the spring, when days were lengthening.

Fall crocuses

This, our second spring, is the mirror image of the first. The crocuses of spring are hearty and hale, the better to fend off chilly nights and lingering snow. The crocuses of autumn are feeble and tenuous, with pale coloring and an almost wax-like translucence. These are ghost flowers–the wispy afterthoughts of now-dormant growth–and they look the part. Their stems nearly drained of chlorophyll, these sprouts are anemic, the last hurrahs of plants who have upended their proverbial chairs on tables, ready to close up metabolic shop for the season.

The crocuses of New England’s first spring are a promise of lush and fecund days to come; the crocuses of our second spring are a whispered memory of dwindling days: nature’s first memento mori of fall.