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Phenology Report: A seasonal switcheroo

An intersex cluster of maple tree flowers. Maple trees are normally dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate trees. The image shows a cluster of six flowers. Two of them have long white stamens with pollen-bearing clusters at the end. These are annotated with "Male flowers (with stamens)". Four of the flowers lack these long white parts, and instead have short red pistils.  These are annotated "Female flowers (with pistils)". The image is captioned "Intersex maple tree".
John Latimer
An intersex cluster of maple tree flowers.

Note from the Phenology Coordinator

 John Latimer gives his phenology report for April 18, 2023. Pictured is a white man with glasses, a beard, and curly grey hair. He is wearing a blue shirt and is sitting in front of a microphone and a computer. Behind him is a large window showing a sunny day and a coniferous tree.
Sarah Mitchell
John Latimer gives his phenology report for April 18, 2023.

Before we get to the report, I wanted to give a quick update.

It’s been a busy week, my friends. I made a rare five-day trip to Grand Rapids to join beloved radio dorks John Latimer and Heidi Holtan at the studio for the “Things are Happening” membership drive. John and I also visited our phenology students and teachers at Rapids West Elementary, Eagle View Elementary, Baxter Elementary and the Northland Arboretum.

Since I normally work remotely, this week was an atypical and wonderful opportunity to meet with coworkers, students and listeners! You are all such welcoming, considerate and enjoyable people, and I’m so happy I’ve found myself among you.

Things are happening

Over the last year, I’ve discovered Northern Community Radio serves as the hub of a truly special group of nature enthusiasts, music aficionados and assorted loveable oddballs (which describes you, dear reader?).

As you know, KAXE is a listener-supported station built by and for you — a member of our dynamic, dedicated and diverse community. We need your help to keep up the good work, including the phenology program I’ve come to love so much!

You can help us by becoming a member. Additional ways to support us include sharing the Season Watch newsletter with friends and family, participating in the Phenology Talkbacks program and writing us a note of support. Your testimonials are vital as we apply for outside funding to support the next phase of our phenology program. (Plus, if you donate financially, we’ll send you one of our pocket phenology calendars as a thank you!)

Phenology summary

John introduces a group of students to a spider during a visit to their class. The image shows John surrounded by a ring of 5th graders, who are looking intently at a small spider in his hands. The group is wearing jackets and hoods, and their hands are extended toward John and the spider.
John introduces a group of students to a spider during a visit to their class.

Sincerity over: back to phenology.

John’s report this week covered the incredible variation in weather, with heavy snows and sub-freezing temperatures bracketing a 60-degree summerlike midweek. The beautiful weather melted snow and brought migratory birds and insects into view. Shrubs and trees are beginning to break bud and the speckled alder finally released some pollen.

One of the more remarkable finds was an intersex maple tree. Most maples are dioecious (have separate male and female individuals), but one of John’s silver maples has branches of both sexes. Last week, he found male and female flowers within the same cluster. (Check out the lead image of this article to see them.)

For the full details, click the ‘play’ button above to enjoy John’s sonorous voice and vivid descriptions of the world.

Do you have observations to share? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch with me (, John Latimer (, or text "phenology" to 218-326-1234.

For more phenology, subscribe to our Season Watch Newsletter or visit the Season Watch Facebook page.

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

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Charlie Mitchell (she/they) joined KAXE in February of 2022. Charlie creates the Season Watch Newsletter, produces the Phenology Talkbacks show, coordinates the Phenology in the Classroom program, and writes nature-related stories for KAXE's website. Essentailly, Charlie is John Latimer's faithful sidekick and makes sure all of KAXE's nature/phenology programs find a second life online and in podcast form.<br/><br/><br/>With a background in ecology and evolutionary biology, Charlie enjoys learning a little bit about everything, whether it's plants, mushrooms, or the star-nosed mole. (Fun fact: Moles store fat in their tails, so they don't outgrow their tunnels every time conditions are good.)