The Magnolias have blossomed

By astronomical accounting, the vernal equinox on March 20 is to mark the start of spring season this year. However, Blue Devils can be seen lounging on the grass around campus in shirts and shorts as early as last weekend.

The trees in the Duke garden may still be bare, but families were out in full force this weekend.

Much to many students’ disappointment, we missed the unseasonably early snow storm at the start of January. Instead, we returned to campus to a warm start of tenting season. Temperatures soon dropped from the 70s back down to a “normal” January cold, but on the Feb. 9, the cherry blossom tree outside my dorm bloomed.

Scientists call it Prunus mume. Students call it instagrammable.

Soft pink flowers lined its branches, not a bud of green distracted the eye. Neighbouring oak trees towered over it, but they were bare and naked. Every morning, the ground was draped in petals that lit up the dreary winter grey and left a subtle, lingering fragrance.

As the symbol of Crowell quad, the cherry blossom has flowered every year, albeit later in February. However, its response to environmental cues is encoded by years of ancestry. With the unpredictable weather bringing a false promise of spring, the cherry blossom initiated its phenological shift, flowering with all its might.

Now, early in February, cherry blossoms across campus continue to flower in confused staggers, as opposed to previous mass blossoms that overwhelms my friends with pollen allergies. With another 80 degree weekend here while the northern states were blanketed in a snow storm, the magnolia tree outside my window bloomed overnight. Nearly every passerby stops to appreciate the hundreds of pink and white buds.

Magnolias flowering outside my window makes for a beautiful sight, except that people keep taking photographs of it with the contents of my disastrous room.

As a tropical animal, this warm weather suits me in every way. However, it is a guilty pleasure knowing that such bizarre patterns are likely due to anthropogenic causes of climate disruption. If anything, it highlights the need for work done here at the Nicholas School. From studying and predicting the effects of climate change to implementing effective policy solutions, I can’t be more proud to be part of this network.

Perhaps someday, the work of all the Nicholas School faculty and their collaborators around the world will come to fruition, and I’ll be enjoying magnolia blossoms back in March again.