Spring Pools

     I have long been a fan of Robert Frost’s poetry, but I only recently ‘got’ how very deeply the man experienced nature.  So many of his poems are eloquent celebrations of particular outdoor observations.

     Frost’s poem below, about vernal pools, speaks to me, as I have just learned in my Master Naturalist class about the value of vernal–or seasonal–pools. 

     These small, natural pools of water that exist only during the spring, and then disappear, I just learned, are very important in the lives of many amphibians. 

     For example, when springtime mating season arrives, salamanders will leave the tiny portion of forest where they dwell for most of the year.  They make their way to a nearby vernal pool, where they will mate and lay their eggs in the water.  Then these salamanders will make the trek back to the little spot of forest that is their home.

     Many frogs also come to the vernal pool in the spring to mate.  They station themselves in and around the pool, and the males call in the evening for a mate.  Hence, the pool may become the site of a lively, nocturnal chorus of spring peepers, green frogs, and bullfrogs  on a spring night. 

     Given the ephemeral nature of the pool, it is devoid of fish.  Thus, the pool is a safe environment for the developing young of the amphibians.  The eggs of the salamander, for example, and then the growing larvae, can develop without being eaten by predator fish.  Once the young salamanders complete the aquatic portion of their lives, they begin their terrestrial phase.  No longer needing the vernal pool, the young salamanders head out into the forest where they will stay until they return to the pool to breed next spring. 

     And it’s a good thing these amphibians no longer need the pool;  it’s disappearing anyway.April Moore

Spring Pools–by Robert Frost

These pools that, though in forests, still reflect                                      
The total sky almost without defect,
And like the flowers beside them, chill and shiver,
Will like the flowers beside them soon be gone,
And yet not out by any brook or river,
But up by roots to bring dark foliage on.
The trees that have it in their pent-up buds
To darken nature and be summer woods –
Let them think twice before they use their powers
To blot out and drink up and sweep away
These flowery waters and these watery flowers
From snow that melted only yesterday.

4 Responses to “Spring Pools”

  1. Elizabeth Cottrell Says:

    Oh, April, what a gift you’ve give us by not only sharing the poem, but also teaching us about vernal pools and including this beautiful photo!

  2. Judy Muller Says:

    Thank you for sharing a Robert Frost poem that I was not familiar with. I had never heard these called vernal pools, and don’t think they probably are even called that out here, but in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico we have these temporary pools, appearing as if by magic, an extraordinarily welcome gift after spring runoff or summer monsoon rains. The spring pools might last a while, but the summer pools, so tiny and ephemeral, a necessity for wildlife and a reward for humans who endure the desert heat and drought.

  3. Todd Says:

    I second Elizabeth. A new insight for me; I’d seen thse pools from time to time, unaware of either their cyclic nature, nor their importance. Thanks.

  4. Joan Brundage Says:

    Thanks, April. I remember these pools in the woods from childhood but I never knew what they were and their purpose in the greater web of nature. Your photo is beautiful!

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