Early budding willows (genus Salix) were observed on the Chistochina Trail during temperatures of 18 above Fahrenheit. The average temperature on March 23, 2021 was 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the coldest temperature on the day in the past twenty years.
These pictures were taken today on the Chistochina Trail. Snow conditions today. 6 below this morning. It was 18 above when picture was taken. Found only one willow (genus salix) sprouting or budding today...but its a month ahead of the old days.
Additional comment (04-01-21) The graph captures for the most part my experience, except for either 1995 or 1996 which I did not record but saw a couple of temperature reads that surprised me. Those summers were the hottest I ever saw in the home country.
Comments from LEO Editors
LEO Network has received five separate posts of early blooming Willows (genus Salix) since 2014:
Some species of willows are very sensitive to spring temperatures. Here where I grew up in Interior Alaska, Salix alaxensis (feltleaf willow) is the very first flowering plant to pop its buds when the temperatures warm up, even when snow still remains on the ground! In some international warming chamber experiments on tundra willows across the Arctic, the warmer spring temperatures made some species of willow flower earlier, but not all (Jones et al. 2003). I checked out what I could find on reports of Salix flowering in Alaska. I found other reports of flowering of Salix alexensis in May 30 – June 10 in Atkasook (Williams and Batzli 1982), and May through June on the UAF campus (West and Salo 1979). At Toolik Field Station on the North Slope, they have monitored Salix pulchra for 12 years, and the earliest they have recorded it flowering was May 22 (in 2016 and 2017). March is early for most parts of Alaska! I also learned that the fuzz on the catkins (those soft white hairs) can actually trap heat, and keep the bud warmer than the air temperature when the sun is not hitting it (Krog 1955)! This is good news, because early flowering puts plants at a greater risk of frost damage. The pussy willow fuzz adds protection from that risk. The bad news is, if the buds have popped open and ptarmigan haven’t come through yet, they lose out on some of the nutrition of the buds (mostly lipids) which are spent by the willow plant developing the catkin. Timing is everything!
The average temperature on March 23rd was 10.0 degrees Fahrenheit. Looking at the average temperature on the day going back to 2001 indicates that the day was not only colder then average but also the coldest March 23 in the past twenty years. The 2021 temperature was 26.2 degrees colder then the 1980 - 2010 average temperature of 36.2 degrees (see graph). For more information on the willow species in Alaska, see the the Alaska Division of Agriculture and USDA Soil Conservation Service publication, Willow Varieties for Alaska. Chyna Williams & Mike Brubaker
Chistochina River Trail
Willow Bud Enlarged
Year over Year Temperature - Chistochina on March 23rd