Warm weather has flowering plants confused

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Southeast Missouri's plants have been duped by a false spring that could bring record-setting high temperatures today.

Forsythia, clematis and other early-blooming vegetation are brightening Cape Girardeau yards thanks to unusually warm temperatures around 70 the last few days. The same plants were covered in nighttime frost this time last year.

If the temperature rises above 71 degrees today, it would top a local record for the date set in 1998.

Debbie Naeter, who owns The Plant Lady nursery and plant maintenance business, propped open the doors of her shop Tuesday to let in pleasant breezes.

"Our plants are confused," she said. "It's going to be scary."

She said a cold spell at the end of October and early November made the plants dormant. But the recent warm weather means some plants that form spring blooms are flowering -- responding as though winter is over.

Tina Thieret, manager of Sunny Hill Gardens and Florist, said some plants may not bloom entirely, meaning the inevitable winter freeze won't kill all chances of a flower-covered plant in the spring. Either way, concerned gardeners must stand by helplessly.

"There's nothing you can do to prevent it or help it along," Thieret said. "You just have to let Mother Nature take its course."

The average high for this time of year is around 50 degrees. David Humphrey, a Paducah, Ky.-based National Weather Service meteorologist, said this year the jet stream hasn't dipped down and stayed in the area.

The northern jet stream is a high, cold air blast from Canada.

Showers tonight and Thursday are expected to bring cooler temperatures, but it is difficult to predict when the cold weather will arrive and stay, Humphrey said.


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