October Blooms

By Robert J. Korpella

First posted on 10-07-2011

I’m not sure we could ask for any better weather this early fall in the Ozarks. Warm days, cool nights and soft winds have carried us through most days. Except for a few showers, it’s almost spring-like outside. Even my lilac bushes think so. A few buds have popped with a bloom or two, each one with the same sweet fragrance that announces the arrival of spring.

This isn’t the first year I’ve noticed fall lilac blooms. In fact, some years the blooms have been profuse in autumn. I worried that the plant might get turned backward entirely once winter arrived.

But fall blooms for plants like the lilac are not uncommon, and the event even has a name: remontant flowering. Shrubs that typically flower in early spring, such as forsythia, rhododendrons and lilacs, will show a few flowers this time of year. That’s because these plants already set their buds several months ago. They have to because these shrubs, like most other plants, go dormant through the winter when most all growing ceases for a while.

Lilacs and their kin react to certain changes in the environment that signal them when to display those colorful blooms. Daytime temperatures and the amount of light they receive are a couple of those cues. Right now, both prompts seem just like spring to lilacs just as it does me. So, a few blooms open up, ready to attract pollinators which, disappointingly for the lilacs, won’t arrive any time soon.

Luckily, only a few blooms open up each October and those anxious flowers are not enough to diminish flowering during early spring. So I’ll still get my fragrant reminder that winter is over and new growth, new life returns. In the meantime, I get a nice promise of what lies a few months down the road.