Warmer winters, climate lead to early blooms

March 5, 2012

According to Illinois State Climataologist, Jim Angel, this winter has been the third warmest on record for Illinois. And anyone who's spent time near a garden lately knows some signs of spring were beginning to appear weeks ago. 

Listen to this segment from Afternoon Shift

In my yard alone, we've already seen the shoots of tulips and daffodils peeking through the soil, as well as buds forming on a rhododendron. 

It turns out, this early blooming isn't unique to this year. 

Dr. Kayri Havens Young of Chicago Botanic Garden and Project Budburst has been analyzing 5 years worth of data collected from citizen scientists around the country. 

And the early indications suggest earlier bloom times for a variety of plants in the Chicago area.  In fact, average first flower observations for forsythia are running 24 days earlier than a landmark analysis of data collected since 1950.  And that's hardly the only example of earlier blooming.

More years of data need to be collected first, but already, scientists are closely watching the phrenology of plants to chart the effects of climate change.  If current trends hold, the shift could have an impact which plants get planted - and where - in the years to come.
 

Correction: This post was updated to correct Jim Angel's name, which was misspelled in an earlier edition.