If you’ve been following Spokes and Petals for awhile, you know that I really have a thing for skunks.
Happily, they occupied the front page of the NYT’s Science Times last week, along with some of their mammalian partners in chemical warfare. Natalie Angier writes…
Every so often…a mammalian lineage discovers the wonders of chemistry, of nature’s burbling beakers and tubes. And somewhere in the distance a mad cackle sounds.
These are awe-inspiring cackles – especially when observed from such a comfortable distance.
The Arboretum’s Peter Del Tredici wrote a piece about the heartiness of this year’s winter annuals and biennials. These plants – such as shepherd’s purse and the oft-maligned garlic mustard – traditionally grow very slowly in the winter months, taking advantage of periods when the temperature is above freezing and receding into dormancy when it’s not. Our lack of consistently cold temperatures has insured that the northeast’s gardens, farms, and wild places will be gangbusters with these plants – and their vigorous seeds – come spring. As the world adjusts to a changing climate, Del Tredici says that “the weeds are well positioned to inherit the earth.”
Elsewhere in the plant world, the USDA released its amazing new plant hardiness map. It is fully interactive, really useful, and, for people such as myself, incredibly fun and fascinating. While many areas have experienced a change in their growing zone (Nashville, for example, was once 6B but is now 7A), that does not necessarily imply that an area’s climate is actually growing warmer or cooler. According to the Chicago Tribune, “the USDA says this map was created by methods so different from the last version that it’s not possible to tell to what extent the shift reflects a change in climate or simply better measurement and understanding of existing conditions.” For example, the new and improved version now references key climate factors such as elevation and urban heat islands.
I want to end by saying thank you to everyone who has been visiting this blog. Readership has been climbing steadily, and I am glad for every single hit. I’m extremely grateful for your encouragement and interest, and am so pleased to have you here.