AUSTIN (KXAN) — Can a seed predict the next winter storm? Could a bush tell you when it is going to rain? Mankind has relied on nature for predicting the weather for what seems like forever. Many people still rely on these myths to to discover the forecast. Can a seed predict the weather better than Chief Meteorologist David Yeomans?
Let’s take a closer look at these weather myths to discover if they hold water.
Myth 1: Can a persimmon seed predict the next winter storm?
One of the more popular myths in the winter months involves a tiny fruit called a persimmon. According to the myth, if you slice a persimmon seed in half during the fall, the shape on the inside of the seed will forecast the winter weather.
“A spoon shape is said to represent a scoop and predicts that you’ll be scooping a lot of snow, a knife shape, an extremely cold winter that cuts through you like a knife and then a fork forecasts a mild winter,” said meteorologist Mack Morris with the National Weather Service office in New Braunfels.
We got our hands on some persimmon seeds to test this myth. After drying them out and slicing them lengthwise, we examined the seeds. Of the five seeds we cut, we couldn’t find a single utensil marked in the meat of the seeds.
“I think the bigger indicator this year for things are fruit size and fruit production,” said Leslie Uppinghouse, lead horticulturist at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Uppinghouse said during years with droughts, fruit trees increase their normal production as sort of a defense mechanism.
As for the myth, Uppinghouse wondered if a specific type of persimmon is required. We tested the seeds of the Texas persimmon, but there are other species, like the Asian persimmon, that bloom at different times of the year.
According to Morris and the KXAN First Warning Weather team, this winter is expected to be the third year in a row plagued by a La Niña weather pattern. That means a dry and mild winter across Texas.
Myth 2: Can a bush tell you when it’s going to rain?
While the persimmon seed is a bit of a disappointment, this myth may prove to actually be true. The Texas Sage or Cenizo Bush is a native plant many believe blooms before it will rain.
There are many species of the plant. We saw a couple of varieties at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, and each seemed to have this same special power. This power has earned the bush the nickname “the Barometer Bush.”
“Before it rains or in very high times of humidity, you can get some blooming, so people associate that with prediction of the weather,” Uppinghouse said the further west you go, the plant will bloom after it rains. Here in Central Texas, it blooms before it rains.
Morris said this myth is likely true. “There is some truth to those flowers may bloom when the humidity comes up.”
Uppinghouse theorizes the plant blooms during high humidity and ahead of rain as a means of pollination. She said the bumblebee, one of the plant’s primary pollinators, actually collects pollen in the rain.
If you want to plant your own Cenizo or Barometer Bush, Uppinghouse said you need to make sure it is in a place with good drainage if you want its mystical powers to work. Do not plant it in clay soil. You can plant it in a raised bed.
Where do these myths come from?
“I think a lot of these things comes from the Farmers’ Almanac,” Morris said. The book, published since 1818, contains numerous weather myths. While agriculture nerds rely on the book, meteorologists and scientists are not fans.
“The Farmers’ Almanac tends to be very vague. And for good reason, mainly because they don’t want to step on one side or the other … it’s intentionally vague,” Morris said.
Uppinghouse was more positive. “People really do rely on some of these old legends — legends are observations.”
- “A good October and a good blast, so blow the hog-acorn and the mast.”
- “If October brings much frost and wind, then January and February will be mild.”
- “In cold, long winters, rabbits are fat in October and November. In mild and pleasant winters, they are poor in those months.”
The Farmers’ Almanac does include an extended weather forecast for the following year, which they said is based on their own propriety formula and not just on folklore.
“I’d say it’s almost like the horoscope for weather, you know, it’s fun,” Morris said.
Uppinghouse thinks the almanac used to be more reliable, since it is based on observations, but due to climate change it is now less so. “The weather is changing drastically, and our patterns are changing drastically.”
“In the past, a lot of people did rely on it, because it was just eons and eons of data that was then placed into a little form that people could digest. Climate change maybe messed that up.”