Spring in Berlin brings to mind many things. Rebirth, hope, renewal.  All of a sudden the trees have leaves again. Seemingly overnight.

Strawberries and of course the amazing white asaparagus make a return to the supermarkets. Drinking Rose wine makes sense again. Picnics and BBQs in the park lend an air of holiday to any weekend. And of course the bookings start picking up for the new touring season 🙂

But one thing which seems to take me by surprise year after year, is the Pappel season. What is THAT? I hear you ask. Some strange German tradition associated with the start of spring?

The most beautiful form of reproduction

Actually not. Pappel is German for Poplar. As in trees. The beautiful, statuesque, tall thin Poplar trees made famous in many a Van Gogh painting. I love them. We have 6 of them right behind our balcony, which means it often feels like we’re in the treetops when we sit outside. Every few years the tree doctors come in and lop off the top branches so that none of them drop on the heads of the kids playing in the kindergarten below. I’m always amazed at how quickly they grow back again.

But every year in spring, the Poplar trees put on a display of fertility which is truly astounding. For some weeks, little fluffy seed pods develop on the branches. And then suddenly, all at once, these little fluffy bits let fly and are carried off by the wind to become new Poplar trees elsewhere. And for a couple of days, in spring, it literally SNOWS with Poplar seeds. The photo is taken from our back ‘hof’ or the little yard below our apartment where my son plays.

Fluffy fun stuff

It gets swept in by any little breeze, forming massive piles of fluffy seedy stuff. A pidgeon pecking at the seeds gets scared by my approach and takes off, leaving me trying not to breathe in the seeds leaving the yard. My son dances around in it crying ‘It’s snowing Mama!’ And it really feels like it is. For three days we can’t sit on the balcony without getting covered in the stuff. All the potplants look like they’re wearing fluffy white coats.

Downstairs the drifts pile up next to the bikes and rubbish bins – looking just like fluffy, seedy snow. And then as suddenly as it begins, it stops again. The air clears. Eventually the drifts get blown away and dispersed. The pot plants look naked again and we can once more enjoy the treetop feel of our balcony without getting covered in fluff.
Poplar season – blink and you miss it!