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Victorian-era pressed flowers reveal climate change

Researchers are using pressed flowers collected during the Victorian era to shed light on climate change.


Ecologists compared samples of early spider orchids, held in collections with notes showing the exact day in spring when they were picked in southern England from 1848-1958, and dates when the same flower blossomed in the wild from 1975-2006.
“Warmer years were associated with earlier flowering … In both cases flowering was advanced by about six days per 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) rise in average spring temperature,” they wrote in the Journal of Ecology after cross-checking with local temperature records.
The match between higher temperatures and quicker flowering for both old and modern orchids showed for the first time that botanical collections could be a reliable source to study climate, even if temperature records were lacking, they said.
Vast numbers of specimens of plants and animals are in collections around the world, some of them dating back 250 years and long before there were reliable temperature records in many nations.


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