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WA Arbor Day: More Exotic Trees, More Bugs!

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 By Chris Thomas/Eric Mack, Contact
April 11, 2007

It seems global warming has a peculiar advantage for Washington gardeners in the near term…it means more trees and more exotic species of trees and plants can grow here. But if temperatures continue to climb, the downsides will challenge even the best horticulturists. What are known as the “Hardiness Zones” for trees and plants have been shifting in recent years, as a result of global warming, and much of Eastern Washington has “gone up” a full zone since 1990, indicating at least a 5-degree temperature increase. On this Washington State Arbor Day, Master Gardener Marty Wingate says some trees that didn’t do well at all in our state a decade ago, like crape myrtles, now thrive. The downside is, gardeners are also battling more bugs.

"We don’t have winters so cold that it kills off all of the fleas, the aphids, and all of the cutworms. But generally, we do slow things down in winter. But if our winters continue to get warmer, then these pests will stay active."

Wingate notes that trees play a critical role and remove air pollution while offering beauty, homes for wildlife and much-needed shade, especially in urban areas. She also suggests planting species that will need less water in the summer, as temperature changes in the future may include less water and more pest control.

The author and columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer observes that so far, the warmer temperatures have meant more, and more exotic, choices for home gardeners in Washington.

"Now it seems like we’re able to grow more plants from South America, New Zealand and Australia, plants are doing well here."

See the Hardiness Zones, and how they’ve shifted from 1990 to today, on the Web site of the National Arbor Day Foundation, www.arborday.org/zones.

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