The new release of hardiness zone maps from the USDA has certainly piqued the interest of the adventurous gardener. As USDA data shows – and the Arbor Day Foundation similarly corroborated in 2006 – the uptick in lowest minimum winter temperatures in much of the country has shifted the landscape.
Many of these changes are highlighted in a new blog post from the PBS Newshour.
Chihuahuan desert plants are expected in rural New Mexico, for instance, but now they’re making an appearance in the more-elevated Santa Fe, writes Rebecca Jacobson. And wine-makers in Virginia are happily experimenting with new crops.
There is another side to the coin, however. Warmer winters also mean pests that used to be killed off by the cold survive into spring.
In Ohio, fungi are latching onto the Colorado blue spruce tree (above) for longer periods. Virginia, while ripe for experimentation, has seen bacterial infections choking grapes. Beetles and other insects are also thriving in the warmer weather, destroying crops and trees, writes Jacobson.
How are we to assess these zone changes? That depends a lot on where you’re standing, or where you tend your backyard. But like any change in the climate, it comes with myriad consequences, some of which we may not notice right away.