Early spring hurts plants

December was the area's second-warmest on record.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Though some Mahoning Valley residents may have dreaded the late snowfall, it was a welcome sight at Mill Creek Park.
Unseasonably warm weather and springlike rains prompted many flowers, shrubs and trees that typically blossom from late February to early March to bud early, said Keith Kaiser, Mill Creek MetroParks horticultural director.
He has an office at Fellows Riverside Gardens.
Last month's temperature averaged 37.3 degrees, making it the second-warmest December on record, and meteorologists have said they expect higher-than-average temperatures to continue through March.
"It's definitely been unseasonably warm, but if it cools off now, it will be OK, it will be good," he said. "What we don't want is more of the 50- to 60-degree days -- even though we liked them."
This week's weather
Monday's temperatures dipped to the low 30s, and there was a trace of snow, not seen much in the Mahoning Valley this season. Forecasts called for highs the remainder of this week from the upper 30s to the upper 40s.
Kaiser said he's seen buds or flowers on snowdrops and other small plants, witch hazel, flowering quince shrubs and wild violets.
But as long as temperatures don't dip below freezing with the flowers on the plants, it should not endanger the plants. Spring should still bring the colorful blooms residents are accustomed to seeing.
What may be hurt, however, are fruit crops, he said. Fruits such as peaches and cherries flower early and those delicate blossoms could be damaged, putting the early crop in jeopardy, he added.

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