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Holly Wholly Out Of Sync

Climate change hasn’t brought any hurricanes to my part of the northeastern United States, but it has brought another large-scale impact that may have consequences in the spring of next year. We had an extremely unusual early spring this year, with 15 days in February in the 90s. In addition to this freakish warmth, we had the largest amount of rainfall ever recorded.

As a result of the unusually long season, with extreme conditions, fruiting trees and shrubs have been knocked off their usual cycle. Some trees lost all their leaves in late August. Now, many spring-flowering shrubs are beginning to flower, almost 6 months ahead of schedule.

simultaneous fruit and flowerThe bizarre consequences of this climatic shift were brought home to me today as I noticed the flowers on the holly bush outside my back door this afternoon. If you look at the photograph, you’ll notice that next spring’s flowers are in bloom at the same time that the fruits from this spring’s early flowers have ripened to a bright red color.

The chances are good that this flowering now means that there will be no holly berries next year, or at least a greatly diminished crop. The holly is only one of many species going through this out of sync reproductive cycle.

The difficulties resulting may go far beyond barren yule garlands in 2018. Fruit farmers could be financially ruined, and food prices could dramatically increase. Migrating birds that depend on small fruit, may be unable to find their traditional food sources next winter. In 2019, if bird populations plummet, farmers of many crops could suffer from increased destruction by insects that are normally controlled by the same birds that get through the depend on the fruits that will be missing from shrubs and trees.

As dramatic ecological disturbances caused by climate change are rippling throughout our region, President Donald Trump still refuses even to acknowledge that climate change is taking place.

How far the destruction will go, no one can say.

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