Planting zones (and pests and invasive species) are ever-more marching northward.

There's ample evidence climate change is messing with the world's phenology, aka the timing of natural life cycles. Warmer temperatures are hastening the emergence of butterflies and driving short-range migratory birds north weeks earlier. They're melting Arctic ice and blocking polar bears from their main prey, seals, creating shrunken bears more than 140 pounds lighter than those of the '80s.

And in the United States, the effects of the great heat-up have become pronounced in our gardens, where warm weather-loving plants now thrive in once-cool environments.

The mutation of the nation's growing seasons is clear in this map comparison NOAA made for the American Public Garden Association. It shows how average overnight minimum temperatures have changed between the former U.S. Climate Normals (tracked between 1971 and 2000) and the current normals (1981 to 2010). Watch how planting zones lurch northward with time:

Here's another view of the expanded planting territory:

With that rate of change, California's poppies could soon become a common sight in Seattle. Seriously: Scientists expect a vast northward shift in planting zones over the coming three decades, as depicted in this NOAA/Garden Association graphic:

So what's the upshot? For those who obstinately focus on the positive—"vegetation will likely grow faster with higher yields than ever before in places where such growth was once impossible," say these Fox News opinion-havers—it won't all be sunshine and daisies.

Balmy weather will speed the march of invasive plants like Kudzu and noxious blady grass. It'll give a boost to crop-decimating pests, which are already venturing about two miles farther north and south each year. And given that ragweed-pollen season is weeks longer now, allergy sufferers might look forward to months of huffing and weeping like they're attending the world's most-painful wedding.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.
    Coronavirus

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  2. Coronavirus

    Why Asian Countries Have Succeeded in Flattening the Curve

    To help flatten the curve in the Covid-19 outbreak, officials at all levels of government are asking people to stay home. Here's what’s worked, and what hasn't.

  3. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

  4. photo: a For Rent sign in a window in San Francisco.
    Coronavirus

    Do Landlords Deserve a Coronavirus Bailout, Too?

    Some renters and homeowners are getting financial assistance during the economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic. What about landlords?

  5. photo: A waterfront park in Macau.
    Coronavirus

    Longing for the Great Outdoors? Think Smaller.

    Access to parks, nature, and wildlife is critical for physical and emotional well-being. Now some city dwellers sheltered at home must find it in new ways.  

×