Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Kimberly from Plano, TX. Kimberly Wonders, “how dd the expression april showers bring may flowers come about?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Kimberly!
When the month of April rolls around and you notice it raining outside, there's one phrase you're likely to hear. It begins with "April showers." Can you finish it? If you said, "…bring May flowers," then you're right on track!
Historians believe this phrase may date back to a 1610 poem, which contained the lines "Sweet April showers, do spring May flowers." A longer phrase, "March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers," has also been traced back to 1886.
The reference to April showers likely originated in the United Kingdom or Ireland, where the month of April tends to be especially rainy because of the position of the jet stream. The cooler climate in these areas also tends to push back the appearance of many flower species to late April and early May.
But do April showers really bring May flowers? That old adage doesn't necessarily ring true, though, especially in warmer climates. Rather than being rooted in botany, the phrase may be a simple way to avoid the blahs of rainy weather by focusing instead on the beauty of better weather ahead.
The exact effect of rainfall likely depends upon what type of flower you're talking about. Perennials, which die off in the fall and bloom again each subsequent spring, are usually the flowers you think about when you think of spring flowers bursting forth.
Some perennials, especially in warmer areas, might come forth in March or April. The previous month's rainfall will usually have little impact on when these flowers spring back to life.
Since their bulbs have been in the ground all along, their growth and health depends upon the overall trend of rainfall over the course of many months. During the course of blooming, too much rainfall could actually be harmful, as some flowers are more prone to disease with too much rain.
Annuals, the flowers you have to replant each year, are different than perennials in that they can't be planted each year until after the threat of frost passes. Once planted, what matters is the amount of rainfall in the months after they're planted — not the month before. They need enough rain in the months after they're planted to sustain their growth and health.
So what really brings forth May flowers? Scientists note there's one factor that's much more important than rainfall in determining when a particular flower will bloom: temperature. When the average temperature begins to approach spring-like weather, flowers will begin to bloom, regardless of exactly how much rain they received in April or the month before they began to bloom.
In some areas, a "false spring" may result in great harm to flowers and fruit crops. Early warm spells may trigger flowers to begin to bloom. If those warm spells are short-lived and are followed by a hard frost, flowers and fruit trees may die and not bloom again until the following year.