Has climate change affected flowers?

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By Chick Keller

Many recent studies show that formerly southern birds, butterflies, etc., are moving north, and people are able to plant crops farther north. White Rock now is home to a southern desert-dwelling bird, the Curve-Billed Thrasher, and Southern White-Winged Doves have invaded even the town site. All these effects are presumably due to global warming.

Pajarito Environmental Education Center decided to see what effect, if any, recent warming is having on our native plants. One might suspect that such warming might stress them in some way, or conversely some species might thrive by producing extra seed. How could we find out? PEEC proposed a fairly simple study to determine what’s happening. It assumes that, if the growing season is becoming longer, native plants might bloom longer into the fall and perhaps bloom earlier in the spring.

Our first test comes from a booklet I wrote back in 1989, “The Twelve Little Yellow Composites of Summer.” In it I give the dates when 12 different species are in general bloom. For example, Perky Sue is in general bloom in early May. Since that booklet was written 20 years ago, it might already show these few plants blooming earlier. In fact, it does not.

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