Friday, March 29, 2013

The Last Full Moon of Winter

Mount St. Nicholas (c) John Ashley
Last week's "Sap Moon" rises over the shoulder of Mt. Saint Nicholas, in Glacier National Park.

Different cultures give different names for each full moon of the year, with most of the names related to weather or agriculture. According to the Farmer's Almanac, there are several historical American names for last week's lunar spectacle.

March's full moon is called the "Sap Moon" and the "Worm Moon." That's because March is the time of year when the ground finally starts to thaw in the frozen north. And warmer ground means that the sap starts to rise from the roots of many trees, especially the maples back east that we tap for sap, which gets boiled down to make maple syrup. Warmer ground also means that earthworms migrate upwards and become active near the surface, leaving their castings on the surface starting in March.

This month's full moon is also known as the "Crow Moon" and the "Crust Moon." In March many of the larger bird species, like Crows, become more vocal as they begin courting and nesting. And the lingering patches of snow that melt during the day only to freeze again at night give us the the crunchy crust of March.

Next month, April's full moon is called the "Grass moon" and the "Pink Moon" (for the early-blooming pink phlox flowers). So last week's spectacle was supposed to be the last full moon of winter. Experience reminds me, however, that here in Montana more snow will fall on those flowers in April - and a little more in the "Planting Moon" month of May.