Ne’er cast a clout till winter is out

Almond trees blooming early Credit: Annette Christmas

Popular sayings and proverbs about the weather abound for every month of the year in Mallorcan culture.

Particularly in the countryside, where life depends on the weather, these proverbs distilled from popular wisdom have traditionally indicated when to plant crops or to be wary of the first glimpse of sunshine and not to recklessly assume the winter is over.

Most climatic events have their own proverb

There is usually a saying to go with any climactic event, whether about rainfall or the arrival of certain birds. However, with the general shift in weather patterns attributed to climate change, these are no longer always reliable.

One thing is certain, the residents of Mallorca are enjoying an unusually warm February. But the following saying advises caution: “Si pel febrer calent estàs/Per Pasqua tremolaràs”.

In other words, anyone feeling warm in February will be shivering at Easter. So, it is not time to dispense with overcoats just yet (a precaution backed up by another popular refrain, roughly translatable as “Don’t take off your coat until the May 40th”, which of course never comes).

The almond trees traditionally put on a spectacular display in February, delighting locals and attracting many visitors to Mallorca. They have blossomed a couple of weeks early this year, at the end of January instead of mid-February, which could affect the crop, as frost and wind could nip the almonds in the bud.

In the past couple of years, they have been absurdly early, with flowering trees being spotted in December and throughout January.

Decline in healthy Almond trees

The past 15 years or so has seen a decline in the number of healthy trees and some of the funds of the tourist tax have been destined to investigation into the causes.

A study by the University of the Isles Balears attributes the decline to a bacterium, Xylella fastidiosa, which was accidentally imported along with Californian trees introduced to the island in 1993. The bacterium is spread by an insect and makes the trees more vulnerable to the effects of drought, nearly 80 per cent of the Mallorcan almond trees having been affected. However, some species are more resistant than others and future hopes are being placed in these varieties to repopulate the emblematic swathes of countryside where locals and visitors alike stroll to marvel at the white and pink blossoms against the backdrop of azure skies.

More rain means healthy growth

The end of 2023 was unusually dry, although the reservoirs of Gorg Blau and Cuber in the Tramuntana mountain range have now recovered some of their capacity, standing at just over 40 per cent full again. If, as the popular saying predicts, winter weather is set to return, perhaps even bringing snow, the water reserves will be further boosted and drought averted, which will also benefit the almond trees.

With thanks for these thoughts supplied by Mallorcan resident Annette Christmas.

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