Spring in October? Not Good!

Yesterday, while walking with a friend, we noticed lilacs blooming. When we got back to my house, we noticed a new bloom on my clematis. It was October 1st! On social media, over the last several weeks, there have been numerous reports of spring blooming shrubs and plants blooming again.

While their scent and their beauty might be appreciated at this time of year and cause some to marvel at their reappearance, it is not an optimistic event that the lilacs are blooming again in September and October! It means that nature is out of sync.

Aldo Leopold kept meticulous track of seasonal changes. He recorded the dates of trees budding, flowers blooming, and bulbs sprouting. For many decades, these dates varied little. Leopold noted that certain ecological relationships depend on the cyclic (and dependable) nature of our natural world.

The connection between two phenological events (a plant blooming and a migratory bird arriving) revealed to Leopold an ecological relationship.

He understood that the early arriving phoebe, a flycatcher that feeds on flying insects, was able to forage near the skunk cabbage when few insects were available elsewhere. Skunk cabbage, which attracts insects with its odor and ability to produce heat, had provided an essential resource for a newly arrived phoebe, perhaps having saved the early phoebe from starving during a cold snap when flying insects became scarce. His new insight into the interconnectedness of living things was only made possible because of Aldo’s passion for discovering and recording seasonal events.”

Sourcd: https://www.aldoleopold.org/post/life-long-passion-for-phenology/

I, myself, over years of observing and recording when the milkweed species in my Wisconsin yard germinate, noted that the milkweed is growing BEFORE the monarchs arrive back in our region. There is a natural sequence and order to life. Without milkweed, there are no monarchs. The timing of the monarch butterfly’s arrival back in Wisconsin each spring follows the germination of milkweed. The plant has to be there for the adult monarch to lay her eggs upon, and feed the larva that emerge subsequently. It only makes sense. I share this observation when I provide community education on citizen science and monarchs.

But, now we have a changing climate. There has been enough change in weather patterns, a warming atmosphere, and man’s influence on the environment to cause spring blooming plants to send a new flush of flowers in October. The natural cycle has been altered.

I hope this obvious change, as people look around their neighborhoods and see a shrub that usually blooms in the month of May covered with blooms in October, increases the number of individuals that recognize there is a problem. I hope it alerts more to the realization that climate change is real, that humans are facing a serious problem with regards to life on earth.

Lilacs in bloom at Iowa State University in May of 2017. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017.

I hope it’s not too late and we can return to the month of May being the only time lilacs bloom in the northern hemisphere. What will you do to combat climate change?

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