Feeling Warmth, Subtropical Plants Move North


The New York Times – May 2, 2007

So if the globe is getting warmer, it stands to reason that the most susceptible species of plants and animals would be the first to respond.  This is exactly what this article is observing. Plants that once only thrived in warmer climates are now very comfortable in the colder latitudes.  Also plants that did well in a certain area are now struggling due to too much heat. 

While this article gives little scientific evidence – primarily observation.  It is a very interesting article and worth reading.

Forget the jokes about beachfront property. If global warming has any upside, it would seem to be for gardeners, who make up three-quarters of the population and spend $34 billion a year, according to the National Gardening Association. Many experts agree that climate change, which by some estimates has already nudged up large swaths of the country by one or more plant-hardiness zones, has meant a longer growing season and a more robust selection. There are palm trees in Knoxville and subtropical camellias in Pennsylvania.

Warmer temperatures help pests as well as plants, and studies have shown that weeds and invasive species receive a greater boost from higher levels of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas, than desirable plants do. Poison ivy becomes more toxic, ragweed dumps more pollen, and kudzu, the fast-growing vine that has swallowed whole woodlands in the South, is creeping northward.

the Ohio buckeye, the Kansas sunflower or the Mississippi magnolia — may begin to disappear within their borders and move north.

By the time of the annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival last month, the pale dogwood blooms had come and gone.

David W. Wolfe, a professor of plant ecology at Cornell University: “There is clear evidence that the living world is responding to this change already.”

Atlanta, which was in Zone 7 in 1990, is now in Zone 8, along with the rest of northern Georgia. That means that areas in the northern half of the state where the average low temperature was zero to 10 degrees Fahrenheit are now in a zone where the average low is 10 to 20 degrees.

Cameron P. Wake, a climatologist at the Climate Change Research Center of the University of New Hampshire: Warming, on the other hand, “is not variability, it’s a long term trend. I would say the U.S.D.A. doesn’t want to acknowledge there’s been change.”

Environmentally gentle gardening choices go hand in hand with hybrid cars, compact fluorescent bulbs and “An Inconvenient Truth,” the Oscar-winning documentary with Al Gore, said Mary Pat Matheson, the executive director of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. “Only in the last year has it even been accepted that it’s really happening,” Ms. Matheson said. “Awareness is starting to turn into action.”

You can read the full and complete article here.

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