My favorite sign of early spring is not the zen magnolia in flower, or the yellow-flowered dogwoods, or the smashing pussy willows with their catkins on full display—in fact it isn’t anything in flower. Rather, it is something in “cone.” For me, the absolute high point right now is to catch a glimpse of the extraordinary (and easily missed) beauty of larch cones just after bud break. Every April, these future seed cones burst out in an array of pinks, reds, and magentas. This is one of the most ephemeral events that you can catch at the Arnold Arboretum—and one that is absolutely habit forming, once you are in on the secret.
Right now, the European larches (Larix decidua) are very near their peak intensity. With this in mind, have a look at the three images here (1296-83*A, left and upper right, and 1296-83*B, lower right) I took on Friday, and head over to Peters Hill to accession 1296-83*A (click the accession number for a map with location). This tree has many red cones at eye level for you to see and ponder the question: why red? (No one knows.)
If you would like to see more larch cones just after bud break, follow this link to my Flickr page with pictures from the springs of 2016 through 2018.