Written by: Rome Marinelli, Horticulturalist at The Inn at Honey Run
Winter is slowly coming to an end. Soon spring will welcome us and let our anxious bodies enjoy the outdoors more, play in the soil, and shed our winter coats…or weight…
The Spring Equinox
The 2020 spring equinox, also known as the vernal equinox, will occur on Thursday, March 19th. This marks the astronomical first day of spring, which is determined by the position of Earth in relation to the Sun. The meteorological first day of spring, which is March 1st, centers on temperatures and phenology. Most notably, the vernal equinox marks the sun moving from south to north of the celestial equator (an imaginary line dividing Earth’s sky into northern and southern hemispheres).
At the equinox, the north and south hemispheres are receiving the sun’s rays equally. The word equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night). Despite the word meaning “equal night”, the sunlight to night sky ratio is actually a little off, but it is pretty close. Both the autumnal and vernal equinox indicate that the earth is in just the right position such that the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world.
The vernal equinox occurs because Earth’s orientation to the Sun changes. We experience four different seasons because Earth is tilted on its axis of 23.5 degrees; if Earth had no tilt, we wouldn’t experience seasonal changes! At the vernal equinox position the Northern hemisphere begins to receive more sunlight and radiation and our days consistently gain hours of sunlight. However, once we reach the Summer Solstice, which is the longest day of the year (per hours of available sunlight), daylight slowly begins dwindling until we reach the Winter Solstice, the Northern hemisphere’s shortest day.
Plants and animals respond to the increased amounts of sunlight. We witness this in plants as bud burst, leafing out, and sap flow. We also see increased activity in animals, from the evening choirs of spring peepers to the morning melodies of songbirds. For more information on plants’ response to increased sunlight, see last year’s blog post.
Moons in March
This month we get to experience a full moon, which is referred to as the full Worm Moon! This is because the ground thaws and allows earthworm casts to appear on the soil surface. Think of this occurrence as the ring of the dinner bell for the various birds in our area. Another fun name for the first full moon of March is the Sap Moon. Rightfully dubbed, this is the time of year when sap of Maples begins to flow. Whether you’re plucking worms for your fishing adventures or tapping your maple trees, grab your pales because the conditions are just right! Oh, and did I mention it will be a Super Moon? Yes, the first super moon of the year will occur on Monday, March 9th.