Despite cold rain and dreary skies, patches of colorful flowers budded and some vegetation emerged just in time for the first tour of the season at the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden on Thursday.
Assistant Curator Peter Carrington gave the tour and pointed out bushes and spring ephemerals, or flowers, that emerge in early spring. These plants have special survival tactics that allowed them to cope coming out of a harsh and snowy winter, Carrington said.
“There is no telling these plants what to do, and we were quite surprised,” he said. “A winter this intense means we’ve lost some plants that got used to growing, some retire because they couldn’t make it through, but some need a serious winter to restore hormones and take up a proper life cycle.”
Carrington added because of the intense winter, many plants would most likely have to be replaced in the coming months.
He first noticed the ephemerals opening in early March, although not all plants featured in the tour had begun to grow and Carrington had to rely on pictures as a visual aid.
Carrington said he had to schedule the tour long before he had any inkling of which flowers were appearing, and sometimes nature forces him to “take a joke” when he goes to show a certain plant and it is not yet visible.
The tour took place as part of the Science Festival this week, and drew families and children from around the state to learn about the early spring vegetation and how they manage to survive colder conditions.
Eric Johnston, a Traverse City area resident, got up early that morning to drive his wife and kids to the tour and to participate in other Science Festival events on campus.
“We thought it would be a fun way to spend spring break for these guys (the children),” he said. “We’re big State supporters and just learn science.”
The tour also attracted locals like East Lansing resident John Kloswick, who said he is a retired MSU Library worker who has lived in the area since the 60s.
“I’ve been coming to these things for years,” Kloswick said. “I enjoy the garden and I wanted to learn a little more about it.”