Spring bursts into flower a month early

THE WHITE plum blossoms at Kew confirm it; spring this year is earlier than ever.

Early-blooming flowers and trees at the Royal Botanic Gardens strongly support the view of scientists who claimed last week that spring is arriving in Europe on average six days earlier than it was 30 years ago.

Like the blossoms of the purple-leaved plum, Prunus cerasifera atropurpurea, scores of plants at Kew are currently flowering up to a month early, according to Nigel Hepper, who has carefully noted flowering dates in the west London gardens for 40 years.

When he began, the plum was a species that regularly flowered in the last week of March, and his meticulous records show it appearing as late as 13 April in 1979. But this year, it came out in the last week of January and it is now nearly finished.

"It normally comes out in the last week of March," said Mr Hepper, holding a branch close to his face.

"This year it came out in the last week of January. Two months earlier than in the past. Remarkable. Remarkable."

Kew's wild daffodils, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, came out as late as 10 April in 1958 but have been flowering for much of February and are now also nearly over.

Across the gardens, the story is the same: the pink of Prunus subhirtella, the weeping spring cherry, the intense lilac of Lathraea clandestina, American toothwort, the glorious bright blue of Scilla bifolia, Alpine squill, are all, by Mr Hepper's calculations, visible very much earlier than they were two or three decades ago.

Scientists from the University of Munich claimed last week in the journal Nature that Europe's new early spring is due to global warming, caused by the build-up of carbon dioxide and other industrial gases in the atmosphere.

Mr Hepper's recording of Kew's flowering dates has been entirely unofficial and a pasttime, because such monitoring was previously regarded as somewhat "trainspotterish" by other scientists. "It doesn't cost anything and needs no sophisticated equipment, so it was rather frowned upon."

But the advent of the threat of climate change and its potential disruption of all ecosystems has suddenly made its value as an important indicator clear. Imperial College, London, is now collating his records into a proper database.

As a botanist rather than a climatologist, Mr Hepper, 69, a rainforest expert who has now retired, cannot be sure of the cause, but he is certainly sure of the effect.

His records of 5,000 different species show, without doubt, that many of Kew's flowers, shrubs and trees are pushing up, budding and flowering much sooner than they once were. Is it global warming? "Let's say it looks very suspicious."

And by how much has spring shifted? "My impression is that over 40 years, it is several weeks earlier."

He smiles. His 70th birthday is in a fortnight. "The trouble is, one doesn't live long enough to confirm it, or otherwise."

Looks fairly convincing from here, Mr Hepper.

Leading article,

Review, page 3

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines