Morton Arboretum plant expert discusses how Chicago weather patterns are affecting plant health

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Monday, March 18, 2024
Plant expert discusses how weather patterns are affecting plant health
Morton Arboretum's Kim Shearer said plants are blooming about a month earlier than expected due to warm winter temperatures. Cicadas may also emerge early as a result of the weather patterns.

LISLE, Ill. (WLS) -- Unseasonably warm winter temperatures are causing plants all over the country to bloom early.

Cherry blossom trees in Washington D.C. could be seen in full bloom, almost a month earlier than expected.

Trees in Chicago are also blooming unusually early.

RELATED: How warmer temperatures affect spring blooms

Kim Shearer, curator at the Morton Arboretum and manager of the New Plant Development Program, joined ABC7 Chicago to discuss the effects of the weather patterns on plants and wildlife.

Shearer said this year the arboretum published its earliest bloom report since 1998.

"We're seeing a lot of things blooming at the arboretum. So, you may have noticed, in Chicago, all of your red, silver and Freeman maples are just past bloom actually. Elms have already fully opened up and bloomed, and of course magnolias," she said.

Shearer said the magnolia blossoms are likely to be damaged after the current cold spell in Chicago.

Unusually warm temperatures are causing plants to bloom, and then become damaged when temperatures drop back down to winter-like conditions.

"We're interested to see what is going to be damaged and what is just going to be completely unscathed by this type of weather instability, or seasonal instability. One thing we know is that the elms and maples probably won't be producing that much seed this year," she said.

The unpredictable temperatures are also disrupting some wildlife, as cicadas may also be seen a bit earlier than expected.

Shearer said that experts from Morton Arboretum predict an early emergence of cicadas if these weather patterns continue, meaning they may appear in April instead of May.

Explore some of the early blooms and learn more about plant science by visiting the Morton Arboretum.