The Rocky Mountains Get A Longer Wildflower Season Thanks To Climate Change

wildflowers rocky mountains climate change

The consequences of climate change aren’t always ugly. In the Rocky Mountains, it means an extra 35 days to find and photograph gorgeous wildflowers.

Every day, I thank the universe for transplanting me to the Front Range of Colorado. All I have to do is step out on my porch, and I’m blessed with a picture perfect view of the majestic Rocky Mountains. Living here also means I get the chance to see some consequences of climate change up close and personal, like drought, out-of-control wildfires, and more recently extra flowers.

Hikers and wildflower enthusiasts flock to the Rocky Mountains from mid-May to early September, which is the best time for catching the most blooms. However, recent research shows that, thanks to climate change, an increasing number of wildflower species have altered their flowering patterns.

The study, which analyzed 39 years of data at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory near Crested Butte, Colo., found that climate change has altered the blooming season of more than two-thirds of the 60 species of native wildflowers commonly found in mountain meadows. They say wildflower season in the Rocky Mountains now lasts 35 days longer, stretching from April to mid-September.

“Previous studies largely have focused on the first appearance of flowers in the spring, but that probably underestimates the true extent of the changes they are going through,” reports the LA Times. “To go beyond that, researchers analyzed wildflower species throughout the season. They found that half of them flowered earlier, more than a third reached their peak blooms sooner and 30% flowered later into the year due to a warming climate.”

At first glance, it’s hard to think of this development as a negative thing. Who doesn’t love an extra month and five days to experience the beauty of high alpine meadows full of colorful flowers? Unfortunately, changes for one species almost always affects everything else in the ecosystem.

“We don’t know if it’s good or bad for these plant species at this point,” Amy Iler, postdoctoral biology researcher at University of Maryland and co-author of the study, told the LA Times. Impacts on already-endangered pollinator species, like bees and butterflies, has yet to be investigated.

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Image: OakleyOriginals