Climate Change Connections: Blooming beauty

Even our favorite flowers take a hit when it comes to global warming and climate change.


“A flower does not use words to announce its arrival; it just blooms.” –Matshona Dhliwayo

Think of all the occasions where flowers set a certain desired tone: weddings, funerals, christenings, birthdays, anniversaries, hospital stays, commemorations, holidays, home decor, receptions, proms, and even at the Kentucky Derby, as the winning horse is blanketed in roses. Think of how people relate to flowers by naming a child after a flower they love. 

It is striking how flowers are essential to the human experience, which is true in all cultures. They reign supreme in silence, yet they speak to all civilizations with dazzling eloquence. 

Emily Coulter, the owner of Morrice Florist, a popular and successful flower shop on the Vineyard, had this to say about the dramatic relationship of flowers and people: “Flowers are a quiet gift of connection. They whisper, ‘I love you, I am here for you, I’m sorry you are hurting, I am proud of you.’ When flowers are gifted, they help us feel seen and loved. They hold a powerful vibrancy written in every petal, that can heal a broken heart or celebrate a momentous milestone.” She added, “Now with the threats of climate change, all of us must be on board about this, or we will lose our precious flowers.”

Abrupt weather changes are a threat to flowering. They can force plants to migrate, or even go extinct. Heatwaves are becoming increasingly frequent. When followed by mild weather, then a cold spell, the changes can cause frost damage and “false springs.” Warming has led to shifts in the plant community’s peak flowering time, altering the traditional rhythm of ecosystems. These earlier blooming periods can have significant consequences for plants, animals, and the pollinators that rely upon one another for reproductive success. Bees and other pollinators become out of sync with the plants they pollinate, affecting pollinator survival and plant reproduction. 

Climate change has put at risk the very foundation of flowering and its role in the planet. Pollinators are being seriously threatened. Changes in temperatures affect floral nectar and scent, and drought changes the volume of nectar and its chemical composition, resulting in reduced pollination. 

In short, climate change contributes to a decline in pollinator populations. Increased rainfall can change blooming times, and heavy rainfall can cause pollinators to become inactive. They are losing places to feed and breed because of overdevelopment, loss of natural landscapes, and pesticide use. Deforestation and agriculture expansion are global concerns for the pollinator population. 

In response to changes, some flowers darken their skin to protect themselves from radiation. The increase in flower pigmentation helps keep pollen from baking, but without the usual coloration contrast, flowers can be less attractive to passing pollinators, and the flower could be missed entirely.

From a human perspective, bees are crucial to our planetary health and survival. As pollinators, they are responsible for about a third of the food we eat. Yet bee populations worldwide are declining due to climate change. Carbon emissions are resulting in temperature extremes that are causing habitat loss and an increase in parasitic mites and predators that thrive in warmer temperatures. Wildfires can destroy pollinators’ nests, and impact their ability to navigate. Colony collapse disorder and shifts in weather and winds make bees less efficient. Bees are impacted in big ways by all these threatening conditions.

Plants and pollinators support life, and climate change could impact the ability of insects to pollinate plants. Our flower world could become seriously depleted.

It’s not all doomsday, however. Notice the word “could” is used more often than “will.” True, we are facing tipping points. Time is of the essence. But we can meet these challenges if we face them together. We love flowers, they speak volumes to us, and we hear their cry, “Work with Mother Nature!” 

The best way to work with Mother Nature is to plant native species — plants more suitable to the local (though changing) climate and soil conditions. You can learn to work with Mother Nature at the upcoming Climate Action Fair, Sunday, May 19, from 12 to 4 pm, at the Agricultural Hall. There will be lots of information at the fair about how to make your garden and yard climate-friendly. 

You can attend these panel discussions: 

12:15 pm: Landscaping with Native Plants — Why

1:15 pm: Landscaping with Native Plants — How

You can also schedule a native plant expert from BiodiversityWorks’ Natural Neighbors to visit your yard to give you tips.

Visit the Vineyard Conservation Society’s website to learn about their Vineyard Lawn Movement: Visit the Polly Hill Arboretum and learn about native plants: Email Doris Ward at

For more information on the Climate Action Fair, go to