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Thoreau’s Plants

November 10, 2008

Global warming has altered the composition of plants on the shores of Walden since the time of Henry David Thoreau.


Thoreau’s botanical legacy….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The famous 19th century philosopher Henry David Thoreau lived on the shores of Walden Pond in Massachusetts for two years, Taking meticulous notes on the plant-life he observed. Now, 150 years later, plant biologist Charles Davis of Harvard University and his colleagues at Boston University are studying Thoreau’s journals to learn about climate change. Davis says that while some plants have adapted to warming temperatures by flowering up to three weeks earlier, others haven’t made the transition.

CHARLES DAVIS (Harvard University):
We found that groups of related species are unable to respond to climate change by shifting their flowering time response, and it’s these groups that are being hit hardest.

He says some of the Northeast’s most familiar plants have declined in abundance, including orchids, roses, and dogwoods. He suspects they’ve become out of synch with their insect pollinators. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.