The ups, downs of warm winter

Daffodils and crocuses are just two flowers that are blooming up to a month earlier than normal. Both usually begin blooming in March, but this year, blooms were noticed in early February.

Flowers are blooming. Birds are chirping. There’s no snow or ice anywhere. With a high of 65 degrees expected Thursday, it feels a lot more like May than March in Manhattan.

But some New York City naturalists warn that an unusually warm winter isn’t always good news.
As today’s weather attests, winter in New York City this year was not much of a winter at all. In fact, Central Park had its warmest February on record, with temperatures averaging 40.9 degrees.
Meanwhile, there have been just 7.4 inches of snowfall this winter, compared to 61.9 inches a year ago, according to the National Weather Service.

Some flowers — including daffodils, crocuses, snow drops, winter jasmine and Japanese flowering apricots — have taken advantage of these conditions to bloom up to a month earlier than usual.

“They feel that winter is over, spring is here, bring on summer,” said Todd Forrest, vice president for horticulture and living collections at the New York Botanical Garden.

Daffodils and crocuses usually begin flowering in March, but this winter their blooms appeared in early February, according to Doug Blonsky, president of the Central Park Conservancy. But inordinately early blossoms are often susceptible to damage from late frosts, Forrest warned.

In other bad news, this may also be a banner year for mites, scale insects and other garden pests, whose populations are normally kept partially in check by winter cold spells. And since the ground never really froze, squirrels have been having a field day eating tulip bulbs, Forrest said.

“Those of us attached to our native wildlife and native plants do prefer our winters to be more normal,” he said.

Warm temps not good for all

new york. A warm winter is not good news for all insects, such as those that use snow as an insulating barrier during hibernation. But others may be able to access new food sources this spring, much to the chagrin of the city’s gardeners.

“In normal cold winters, the insects may not emerge early enough … to begin feeding on tender plant parts,” Lou Sorkin, a member of the New York Entomological Society, said in an e-mail. “A little later in the season, when insects normally emerge, the parts are tough and too difficult to chew or penetrate.” 


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