Persimmon seeds & wooly worms predict upcoming winter season

Turning to Mother Nature for possible answers
Turning to Mother Nature for possible answers
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 6:46 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - While it may be fall, it won’t take long for winter to arrive across the Ozarks.

With many wondering how the upcoming winter will unfold, many have started to crack open persimmon seeds and search for wooly worms for any possible signs about the upcoming winter season. Francis Skalicky of the Missouri Department of Conservation says that while this is quite a folklore tradition for the Ozarks, other uses for the persimmon seeds can go back to the 1800s.

“In the Civil War era, the Confederacy they were blockaded, so they were short on a lot of items. They used persimmon seeds for making coffee and for buttons on their clothing,” Skalicky says. Skalicky also theorizes that somewhere in that process, people started splitting the seeds and noticed the shapes in there, potentially leading to using persimmon seeds to predict winter weather.

In terms of splitting persimmon seeds, patience is needed when splitting the hard seed from a ripe persimmon. When the seed gets split open, Skalicky says you’ll find one of three shapes inside: a spoon, a fork, or a knife.

“The spoon, as folklore goes, is a sign of a heavy snow, lot’s of snow,” Skalicky states. “The knife is a sign of cold winds that can cut through you like a knife. The fork is a sign of a milder winter with maybe some powdery snow. That would be much easier to deal with than the other two options.”

KY3 reached out to viewers on Facebook for pictures of persimmon seeds split open. Thanks to the viewers that sent pictures in, the overwhelming majority of photos we received showed spoons inside the seeds. Not only is that a sign of maybe a snowy winter on the horizon, but it was also the predominant shape in the seeds before the winter of 2020 and 2021. That winter, the Springfield-Branson National Airport observed 14 inches of snow for the season, above our seasonal average of 11 inches. While that winter started with slightly above-average temperatures for December and January, we ended the winter with that brutal cold snap that February. That month saw lows drop to -15° on February 16, stopping just shy of the record of -17° on February 9, 1979.

Another fun way to see if Mother Nature can predict the winter is the wooly worms. Skalicky says that the idea started to catch on back in 1950.

“The curator of insects of the American Natural History Museum in New York did a study of wooly worms for two consecutive years,” Skalicky states. “One year, according to the wooly worm, was supposed to have a severe winter. It was. The year after that, the wooly worm said it was supposed to be a mild winter. It was.”

Succeeding studies, however, have shown no consistency between the width of the color bands of the wooly worm and how the winter played out. For those who still want to have fun looking for wooly worms, look for those with black bands at both ends and a reddish band in the middle. Folklore says the wider the band in the middle, the milder the upcoming winter is supposed to be. A narrow band would suggest a colder winter.

No matter how the upcoming winter season plays out, the KY3 First Alert Weather Team will be more than ready to track anything Mother Nature sends our way.

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