It’s About Time – January 2019

Seed cone of Douglas fir

Global warming tends to manifest its effects in the form of droughts that dry our forest trees, especially Douglas fir, and cause bigger forest fires in late summer. Even in winter, however, the influence of global warming seems to cause a disruption of normal flowering time. This year our sasanqua camellia began flowering in November, while it usually begins around Christmas. A social media post by the Native Plant Society of Oregon reported seeing snow queen blooming already, when it usually starts a month or so from now. Going back through my notes, I see that there was a similar early flowering of Oregon grape in 2015, around Christmas.

I realize that the increased severity of fires that began four years ago is comparable to winter increase in precocious flowering. Winter effects of global warming are not easily noticed but the effect on the environment can be expected to be profound. The consequences are not yet clearly defined. Incense cedar, white alder and domestic hazelnut will likely shed pollen early, marking a new, earlier challenge to sensitive allergy sufferers.

What makes me happier is seeing the American shovelers doing their circle dance in the Delta Ponds. Chorus frogs begin their chorus season with a few tentative croaks and an occasional “frigget, frigget.” Many of the first spring leaves of perennial woodland herbs that die down and become dormant in the summer are starting to push up from their rest. Soon begins red fox, coyote and opossum breeding season.

David Wagner is a botanist who works in Eugene. He teaches moss classes, leads nature walks and makes nature calendars. He can be contacted through his website,