In Thoreau’s Flower Journal, Clues for Climatologists

Henry David Thoreau has inspired generations with his writings at Walden Pond. Now, scientists are using his journals to find clues about climate change. Starting in 1852, the author and naturalist recorded the dates for the first spring blooms of different flower species in Massachusetts. Scientists are looking at his 6 years of of data for flowers like the Pink Lady Slipper, Cypripedium acaule, pictured in the article. Combined with data from naturalist Aldo Leopold, who kept flowering dates from 1935-1945 in Wisconsin, and other botanists, researchers were able to see a pattern. On average, flowers open 2.3 days early for every 1° Fahrenheit (0.6° Celsius) increase in warmth. Flowers in Massachusetts are opening an average of 20 days earlier than in Thoreau’s day. While earlier flowers may seem like good news, nobody yet knows the consequences of these changes. If flowers lose sync with their pollinators, they’ll stop reproducing. Most orchids are pollinated by just a single species, so extinction is a danger. For now, scientists are searching for more answers, and finding the records of past centuries helpful.


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2 Comments on “In Thoreau’s Flower Journal, Clues for Climatologists”

  1. Kim Z Says:

    I enjoy the efforts you have put in this, regards for all the great articles.

  2. Alison Wu Says:

    Hi admin, nice post.