Tennessee folklore predicts a cold, snowy winter

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – We have officially had our first freeze of the season, and fall is in the air. So naturally, we begin to think about the upcoming winter.

A few weeks ago, the National Weather Service released their winter weather forecast calling for above-normal temperatures and near normal to slightly above-normal precipitation for December, January, and February.

Tennessee folklore also has methods for forecasting the winter.

From woolly worms to persimmon seeds, the legends have been passed down from generation to generation.

AP Photo/Gail Burton

Woolly worms, also known as woolly bear caterpillars, are one of the more popular subjects for folklore winter forecasting.

UT Extension entomology professor Dr. Frank Hale took off his scientist hat to tell us what the insects have to tell us about winter.

“Some of them are solid black, but others ones have banding in the middle, maybe a reddish banding,” Hale explained. “The story goes that if it’s all black it means a severe winter, and banding shows a more mild winter, or maybe a little cold at the beginning, and then a mild period. And that’s typically what we have in Tennessee.”

Courtesy of Kathy Shank Gupton


“The ones I’ve seen lately have been all black,” Hale said. “And, I checked with Dr. Jerome Grant, an entomologist at UT in Knoxville, and he’s seen all-black ones too. I checked with another colleague in Georgia – they’ve seen the black ones.”

So, that’s leaning towards a more severe winter, according to the folklore.

Now, what about the persimmon seeds?

Check out this picture from Perch and Sherry Patterson in Waverly, Tennessee. When you cut the persimmon seeds in half, you are supposed to see either spoons, knives, or forks.

Persimmon seeds cut in half from Perch and Sherry Patterson in Waverly, TN

A spoon indicates you may be shoveling lots of snow. A knife means cold the will cut you. A fork means a mild winter.

These are all obviously all spoons! So, maybe we need to get the shovels and sleds ready!

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