Streams

Weird Weather Confuses Plant Life

Friday, January 20, 2012

First, this winter brought unusually warm temperatures, now there's finally snow on the way.

But even if the weather gets back to "normal," many trees and plants have already been thrown off their rhythm.

Patty Kleinberg, deputy director of the Queens Botanical Garden, has observed all kinds of flora in bloom in recent weeks, including irises, cherry trees, wintersweet, and hellebores. These are all species that usually put out blossoms in early to mid-spring.

"Normally we would get a good hard freeze sometime by the end of December to early January," Kleinberg said. That's the time Botanical Garden Staff usually lay down mulch to protect root systems.

"What's frustrating is that we haven't had a good hard freeze long enough to mulch those beds," she explained.

Kleinberg said it fits in with a trend — our climate is getting warmer, and weirder.

"The warmth that provoked this blooming — there's nothing we can do. Some of them might bloom again at their natural time. Others probably won't," Kleinberg said.

But Mark Fisher, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's director of Horticulture, said every year brings a new seasonal weather pattern for all plants to contend with.

"Trees in particular are naturally adapted to adjust to variations in weather, and so there’s no need for concern about blooming 'too early' or 'too late'," he said. "In truth, there is a window of time much larger than many people may imagine during which it’s appropriate for trees to show buds."

Still, Kleinberg warns that the Queens Botanic Garden's crabapple and cherry trees may not produce much in the way of flowers next spring, as a consequence of this winter's weather.

But, Kleinberg added, there will be many other treats for the eye.

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