The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

September 23, 2012

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Weather tricks plants into blooming late

PITTSBURG, Kan. — It took me a few days to adjust my reaction when opening my front door from “I can barely breathe because of the heat and I just may pass out,” to “Wow. This is delightful. I think I’ll sit on the porch for a while.”

Like many of you, we’ve turned off our air conditioning, opened up the house and are eating more meals outside. I actually mowed last week. Grass. And it was green.

Now, I’m full into this glorious fall.

But the nonhumans on our property seem to have had a slightly harder time adapting to the sudden change. They are, quite simply, confused. I say this because when I opened my son’s bedroom blinds last Thursday, I thought I had put my contacts in wrong.

There were blossoms on one of our pear trees.

Remember blossoms? Those white, flowery things that show up when plants get enough moisture and mild temperatures? In all my years of gardening and yard maintenance, I have never, ever seen a spring-flowering plant do so in the fall. Ever.

So I posted photographic evidence on Facebook, just to see if there were others with vegetation exhibiting wacky weather reactions. There were.

Pittsburg resident Jean Winters said she has seen several Bradford pear trees blooming around town. Most of them lost lots of leaves during the dry spell, and now that it has rained they think it is spring, she theorized. Last week, she even saw a spring flowering magnolia blooming on Quincy Street.

I took a drive Friday, and sure enough, it’s blooming.

Laura Lee Washburn, also of Pittsburg, told me that her young hibiscus had started blooming again, although the big ones aren’t. Being older and wiser, they must have caught on more quickly to Mother Nature’s tricks.

Laura’s hostas that had died during the unending heat this summer also sprouted back up again with new leaves — another thing I’ve never seen in my garden. Traditionally, once hostas are done, they’re done.

Pittsburg resident Karen Sooter shared that she had seen a crabapple in full bloom the same morning of my pear tree blossom sighting, and a lilac bush in partial bloom in the same yard. One of her friends confirmed that a spring blooming bush is blooming again, as well.

Sooter theorized, like Winters, that the drought, followed by rain and wonderful “California type” temperatures, reset the plants’ biological clocks, so to speak.

The rebirth doesn’t appear to be limited to Pittsburg. A Carl Junction friend, Tara Harris, tells me that her hydrangea has blooms.

It may be weird, but I won’t complain. As my oldest son reasoned, after what we all endured through the summer, we deserve a few blooms. Yes, yes we do.

And what’s happening in your neck of the woods?

Follow Andra Stefanoni on Facebook at facebook.com/andrajournalist and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

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