3.16.23 2

Little Winters

North Carolina weather is fickle – especially during spring. One minute the sun beats down on you; the next, icy winds shoot shivers up your spine.

The weather will go back and forth like this for the next month as cold fronts move in and out. Around here, we call these cold spells “little winters.”

Across the state, there are six little winters:

  • Redbud Winter – Hits when the redbud trees have begun to bloom.
  • Dogwood Winter – Arrives with the flowering dogwood.
  • Whippoorwill Winter – Coincides with the first songs of the whippoorwill.
  • Locust Winter – Rolls in during the short blooming season of the locust trees.
  • Blackberry Winter – Occurs when the blackberries bloom.
  • Cotton Britches Winter – Strikes when you finally put away your winter clothes.

I carried my houseplants outside a week ago, only to have to turn around and bring them right back in on Monday. That night temps dropped down to freezing. By tomorrow, it’ll be 70 again.

Redbud winter hit us at this same time last year and killed off my camellias before they could bloom. Luckily, this year my flowers opened up before the singularity blew in.

Little winters arrive at different times, depending on where you live. In some places, you don’t even get all of them. 

Back in Appalachia, we experienced every little winter that exists (and some that didn’t). But the closer you get to the coast, the warmer it gets – and the more implausible a late cold snap becomes.

Blackberry winters are rare here in the Sandhills, and cotton britches winter is non-existent. I’m okay with that, though. I appreciate the balmy months of May and June.

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  1. Bex wrote:

    My multi generational Appalachian mountain family came down through the mountains until they reached Tennessee at some point. My great grandmother, grandmother, and dad, were born and raised on Sewanee Mountain. One of the last mountains in the Appalachians. They were all raised there but later moved into the valley in middle Tennessee. My grandmother would tell me the names of the little winters she was raised up to remember.

    She told me of:
    Redbud Winter
    Dogwood Winter
    Whippoorwill Winter
    BlackBerry Winter
    Locust Winter
    Stump Winter-when you burned your stumps because you didn’t want to go out and cut another rick of wood.

    I guess it got changed at some point over the years. I’d never heard of Cotton Britches Winter before this article. 🙂

    Published 4.22.24
    • Cassie wrote:

      I love that! I’ve never heard of stump winter before. I’m not sure if it got changed or not. It could be that folks had different names for them. Mamaw picked up the names for the little winters from her daddy, Papaw Cochran.

      Papaw Cochran was born in Swain County in 1893. <3

      Published 5.11.24