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Global warming may kill New Jersey state flower

By Bob Groves ( - May 25, 2007

New Jersey’s state flower could disappear by the end of the century, a victim of global warming, the National Wildlife Federation warned.

The common blue meadow violet — which the state Legislature made the official state flower in 1971 — could be done in by heat, drought, deluge and invasive non-native pests, a report from the federation said.

That onslaught could force wildflowers, such as the violet, and other native plant and animal species to shift their home ranges northward and to higher elevations, said Patty Glick, author of the report, “A Gardener’s Guide to Global Warming.”

“When we see changes in climate, we’re likely to see changes in optimum places were plants can thrive,” said Glick, a senior global warming specialist for the independent, non-profit conservation organization.

By some estimates, temperatures will rise 4 degrees Fahrenheit in winter — and the summer heat index could increase by as much as 10 degrees — by the year 2100 in the Northeast United states, the report said.

Some plants may thrive further north, others might die off altogether, Glick said.

The Garden State is among 18 states whose state flower is also threatened, including the magnolia in Mississippi, sagebrush in Nevada and the black-eyed Susan in Maryland.

Global warming, the gradual rise in the earth’s temperature, will also impact the official tree of Washington, D.C and 17states and — but not the northern oak of New Jersey.

Many of the nation’s 91 million home gardeners are already seeing warning signs of global warming, such as plants leafing out and blooming earlier, Glick said. Birds and butterflies are also breeding and migrating earlier, she said.

The violet may flee increased ultra-violet sunlight, but that could be the least of our worries, plant specialists in New Jersey said.

“Everything is threatened,” said Lena Struwe , a botanist, and director of the Chrysler Herbarium at Rutgers University. “Maybe half of all species in the U.S. are threatened; who knows.

“I’m not an expert on violets,” Struwe said. “But personally, I worry less about the state flower of New Jersey, and maybe, that we might not be able to produce food, because of the change in the forests, the coastlands and wetlands.”

But it will take something bigger than violets, or the cherry trees in Princeton that blossomed unnaturally early last Christmas, “to make people in New Jersey realize global warming is a serious problem,” Struwe said.

Nancy Bristow, the wildflower specialist at the New Jersey Botanical Garden in Ringwood, doesn’t need convincing.

“Global warming is probably going to hurt a lot of plants,” she said. “Certainly most of our wildflowers will be in trouble.

How to fight global warming in your garden:

• Remove invasive plants and insect pests.

• Reduce water consumption.

• Compost kitchen and garden waste.

• Plant rooftop gardens and trees around the house.

• Create a “rain garden” to catch storm water runoff.

• Use electric or hand tools.

• Use compact fluorescent lights and solar-powered products.